A small bowel series is a way to look at your small bowel with X-rays.

These procedures are performed at the following Jones Radiology locations:


You will be given some liquid barium to drink, and after a short wait, you will lie on an x-ray table for the first x-ray of your abdomen. The liquid barium is usually diluted with water. Barium is white and chalky with no distinct taste. It is dense so it can be seen with the x-ray machine as it passes through the body. You may be asked to lie on your right side between x-rays to help the barium move faster. The length of time it takes for the liquid to pass through the entire small bowel is variable. It may range from 45 minutes, to 4 hours or in some circumstances, even longer. X-rays of the abdomen are repeated every 20 – 40 minutes as the barium moves through the small bowel. Usually, you will lie on the table for the first part of the test. After this, you may be encouraged to drink more barium and walk around. You may be given a cup of tea and something to eat if it is taking a long time for the barium to pass through your system. It is important to wait until the barium reaches the end of your small bowel before the examination is finished. Once the large bowel is reached, the radiologist will use an x-ray video camera to look more closely at the small bowel. Sometimes, the radiologist may need to gently press on your abdomen to separate sections of the bowel in the pictures.

Before your Scan

You will need to fast (not food or drink) for 6 hours before the examination.


Small bowel series take between 1 – 4 hours (rarely it may take longer) as the barium is swallowed and must naturally progress through the small bowel.

Other Information

After the procedure, the fluid (barium) you have swallowed may lead to constipation. We suggest you drink more water or other healthy fluids than normal for two days after your examination.

If you have questions or concerns, please speak to the staff.

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