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Small Bowel Follow-through

Focuses on the small bowel from the ligament of Treitz to the ileocecal valve.  Indications include, but are not limited to:

  • Unspecified abdominal pain
  • Constipation / diarrhea / blood in stool
  • History of Crohn's disease / anemia

The SBFT examination is used to visualize the entire small bowel (intestines); specifically the connection between the small and large intestine.  Procedure Duration:  1-4 hrs depending on how quickly the barium moves through your digestive system.

Patient Preparation:
You are required to fast (eat nothing) after 10:00pm the night before your procedure. If you have to take medications, it is OK to do so, but with only a sip of water.

Upon arrival to the radiology department, you will change into a gown and robe provided by the hospital.  You are required to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area of the abdomen.  You may keep your under pants, socks and shoes on.  Your privacy and comfort will be maintained at all times.

**Note:  If you are a woman of childbearing age, the technologist will ask if there is any possibility of pregnancy.

During the exam:
A doctor of radiology (radiologist) and registered technologist(s) will perform the procedure.  Please feel free to ask any questions at any time during your procedure.
Your technologist will go over some medical history and your medication list with you prior to the procedure.  Your technologist will assist the doctor and you during the procedure.  She/he will explain to you what your procedure requires.  You will be positioned on a flat x-ray table and an image of your abdomen taken.  Then the technologist will show the x-ray to the radiologist.

The radiologist will instruct your technologist how much (1-2 cups) barium sulfate you will drink and when to begin taking the timed x-rays, usually 15-30 minutes after you begin drinking.  Barium is a harmless substance that will highlight your small intestine by absorbing x-ray.  The taste is chalky and it feels very heavy both in the cup and in your stomach. 

After the first x-ray is taken and shown to the radiologist, he/she will determine when the next image is to be taken.  This can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  This is repeated until the barium has reached the end of the small intestine and enters the beginning of the colon (cecum). This could take several hours, so please be prepared.
At such time when the barium spills into the colon, you will be positioned on the x-ray table once again the radiologist will use a fluoroscopic camera to take some detailed pictures of the connection between your small intestine and colon.  The fluoroscope is an x-ray unit that works with a television/computer screen.  The radiologist will apply pressure to your abdomen with his/her hand and a lead glove, a plastic paddle, or a paddle with an inflated rubber balloon on the end.  This is to spread apart your loops of intestine so he/she can see all areas.
Once the fluoroscopic portion of the procedure is complete, the technologist will provide discharge instructions in both verbal and in written form.  Then you will be escorted to the changing room to get dressed and then out of the department through reception.

Post-procedure Information:
The radiologist (doctor) will read the images and dictate a report.  Your physician will receive a report of the findings within 3business days and should advise you of the results.

***Important***  Drink plenty of water (8-10 cups/day) for a few days following the procedure to avoid constipation and blockage. The barium will make your stools white for a few days.

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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100