Small Bowel Series

What is a Small Bowel Series?

A Small Bowel Series is a diagnostic procedure, which uses a “contrast agent” called barium sulfate and x-rays to obtain clear pictures of your small bowel. Ordinarily, x-rays pass through the soft tissues of the body, such as those found in your small bowel. However, barium sulfate coats the walls of your small bowel, thereby casting shadows that can be recorded in x-ray film. The exam can detect problems within your small bowel. A Small Bowel Series procedure helps the radiologist identify these problems with minimal risk and discomfort to you.

What takes place during a Small Bowel Series?

A radiologist or technologist specializing in Small Bowel examinations will perform the exam. For this exam you will change from your clothing into a hospital gown. A preliminary x-ray is taken of the abdomen. Then the patient drinks two cups of barium. The technologist will be taking x-rays every fifteen minutes, for one hour, then every thirty minutes thereafter until the barium reaches the end of the small bowel. The patient will walk around between films to help the barium move through the gastrointestinal system.

How long does the exam take?

The length of the exam is specific to each patient. However, the exam takes approximately 1 to 4 hours on average.

How do I prepare for the exam?

The patient should not smoke, chew gum, eat or drink anything after 10pm prior to the day of the exam to ensure that your system is empty. You may brush your teeth, but avoid swallowing water. You should consult your doctor regarding whether or not you should take your medications the morning of your Small Bowel Series.