What Is Barium Sulfate Suspension

Barium sulphate is an insoluble salt of barium that has several medicinal uses, especially in gastroenterology. It is a chemical compound comprising of three naturally occurring elements, barium (Ba), Sulphur (S) and Oxygen (O2) and has a chemical formula BaSO4. The insolubility of this chemical compound makes it an ideal substance to be given to a patient before a computer tomography (CT) scan or fluoroscopic study of the gastrointestinal area. Barium sulphate suspension is a combination of BaSO4 powder and a liquid and is give to patients before CT scans. Unlike the soluble salts of barium, barium sulphate is safe to ingest or take as an enema.


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    Physical properties

    Besides being an insoluble salt of barium, it has a relatively large density of 4.5. This is because of the large atomic size of a barium atom. The atomic size of barium also makes it easy for barium sulphate suspension to absorb X-rays, which makes it suitable for the fluoroscopic study of the gastrointestinal tract.

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    Barium sulphate suspension

    A suspension is a heterogeneous mixture of two or more compounds in which solute particles are sufficiently large for sedimentation. A barium sulphate suspension, also called “barium meal” is a chalky, tasteless mixture which may include dispersing agents as well as artificial sweeteners to make it easy for the patient to ingest it.

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    Barium sulphate suspensions are provided by classified radiologists prior to or during a CT scan to allow for better examination of the gastrointestinal area. The suspension is ingested orally for the upper gastrointestinal evaluation, and as enema for the lower gastrointestinal examination. The insoluble, indigestible barium sulphate particles coat the oesophagus, stomach and intestines of the patients, allowing the physician to see the damaged or diseased areas more clearly. This helps the doctor diagnose the illness or injury more accurately.

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    Side effects

    The patient may experience diarrhea or nausea post examination. Since the barium sulphate suspension flushes out of the patient’s body through faecal elimination, resuming a normal diet soon after the examination often improves the symptoms.

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