barium swallow

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This is a single contrast radiological technique used primarily to assess the functional and anatomical properties of the oesophagus (1).

Liquid barium is swallowed in an upright and prone position and radiographs are taken during the oesophageal phase of transit (2).

  • Height of the barium and oesophageal width are measured.

Classic finding on barium swallow is smooth tapering of lower oesophagus to a “bird’s beak” appearance, with dilation of proximal oesophagus and lack of peristalsis during fluoroscopy (2).


  1. Schlottmann F, Patti MG. Esophageal achalasia: current diagnosis and treatment. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jul;12(7):711-721. doi: 10.1080/17474124.2018.1481748. Epub 2018 Jun 8. PMID: 29804476.
  2. Momodu II, Wallen JM. Achalasia. [Updated 2021 Aug 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. Available from: - article-17083.s4 (accessed 21 January 2022)

Last edited 02/2022 and last reviewed 02/2022