CAT Scans and Barium

I’m getting a CAT scan next Friday–my first–and the day before I go in, I have to drink about a pint of Barium. I imagine this is a common practice, and hope someone on these boards has done the same.

What can I look forward to afterwards? Will I be crapping glow-in-the-dark all weekend? They don’t tell me this stuff ahead of time.

Your stools will be lighter in color than usual for the next several days, but that’s the only effect of the barium you’re likely to notice.

BTW, barium isn’t radioactive (your “glow-in-the-dark comment” makes me think you might have thought it was.) It’s tasteless but rather chalky and even though they dilute it into a kind of “milkshake” I found it very hard to swallow it; something about the texture of the stuff just made me gag horribly. With luck, you won’t find that a problem; my understanding is that most people don’t , although I doubt anyone would nominate a barium shake as their favorite beverage!

something else with cat scans that they didn’t warn me about when i got mine. When you get your IV, your crotch gets really warm and, coupled with the fact you’ve been chugging barium juice, it feels like you wet yourself. Don’t worry, you probably didn’t.

Glow in the dark? No such luck. It will feel as if you’re trying to pass concrete, though. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to do the barium “pop-rocks” - this is usually more for an upper GI scan - esophagus and stomach. If you’re doing the barium the day before, I’d guess your area of interest is the lower GI.

When they tell you not to have anything to eat or drink before the scan, believe them. This can be the difference between simply feeling queasy from the contrast and actually seeing your breakfast a second time. :eek: When I had a contrast MRI, the stuff made my arm feel cool as it progressed up the vein. Once it got past my shoulder, I got seriously queasy.

Plan to take the day off. The after-effects of the contrast will probably leave you rather tired.

The “pop rocks” aren’t barium; they’re straight carbon dioxide to inflate the stomach. This helps the radiologist rule out ulcers and other stomach disorders. Ya know how you inflate a leaky innertube and put it in water to see where the hole is? Same general principle. I had an upper GI study done some years back and had both the pop rocks AND the barium milkshake. I turned green from the shake and had a monster belch from the pop rocks, but I felt better.


Yeah, I’m doing this on a Friday, so the recuperation day will be a Saturday. Sunday night I go back to work. They’re doing this to look at a kidney.

Some people get constipated from the barium, so have some mild laxatives on hand in case you get backed up.


Please note that we’re not talking elemental barium here. Barium is toxic.

The compound used as a contrast agent is water-insoluble barium sulfate, thus rendering the barium ions unable to harm you.

The stuff they serve you is a watery suspension.


Prepare to have difficulty getting the damn barium shake down. The mere smell of it made me gag, and I cold only get down a small portion of it, because I felt like I was going to throw up. I figured throwing up wouldn’t help anything, because I’d lose whatever barium I’d already managed to ingest. The "pop rocks"thing wasn’t nearly as bad.

If you’re into that sort of thing, ask the techs if they’ll let you see your insides on the screen when they’re done. I did, and it was really cool!