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Contrast materials are used to see inside your body more clearly on an x-ray, CT or MRI exam. They are like dyes that temporarily change how the organs, blood vessels or other tissues appear on an image. Iodine-based and barium-sulfate contrast materials are the most common.

Barium sulfate is one of the most commonly used oral contrast agents for CT and X-ray examinations of the digestive tract. It comes in powder, liquid, paste and tablet forms and can be administered either orally or rectally for CT scans of the stomach and upper intestine.

It is also used to make your esophagus show up better on X-ray pictures of your throat or mouth (esophagram). Your doctor will give you this test to help him find problems with swallowing or reflux.

Your doctor may also use this contrast to help him find problems with your lungs or bladder. It is very important that you follow your doctor’s directions, including not drinking or eating anything containing barium, enemas or laxatives the day before and the day of your test.

This medication is very thick and chalky, so it can be difficult for patients to drink. It also produces white feces when it is ingested and can lead to constipation and abdominal pain. Other side effects include itching, redness or hives. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

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