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Using Barium Sulfate for Medical Imaging

Using Barium Sulfate for Medical Imaging

Various types of medical imaging techniques are used to aid diagnoses of illnesses in a noninvasive manner. One such technique utilizes the ingestion of a barium compound before taking an X-ray image. A suspension of barium sulfate, a chalky powder, is ingested by the patient. Since the Ksp of barium sulfate is 1.1 \(×\) 10–10, very little of it dissolves as it coats the lining of the patient’s intestinal tract. Barium-coated areas of the digestive tract then appear on an X-ray as white, allowing for greater visual detail than a traditional X-ray (see the figure below).

This figure contains one image. A black and white abdominal x-ray image is shown in which the intestinal tract of a person is clearly visible in white.

The suspension of barium sulfate coats the intestinal tract, which allows for greater visual detail than a traditional X-ray. (credit modification of work by “glitzy queen00”/Wikimedia Commons)

Further diagnostic testing can be done using barium sulfate and fluoroscopy. In fluoroscopy, a continuous X-ray is passed through the body so the doctor can monitor, on a TV or computer screen, the barium sulfate’s movement as it passes through the digestive tract. Medical imaging using barium sulfate can be used to diagnose acid reflux disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers in addition to other conditions.

Visit this website for more information on how barium is used in medical diagnoses and which conditions it is used to diagnose.

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