What is a small bowel follow-thru?
A small bowel follow-thru or follow through procedure uses fluoroscopic imaging, a type of x-ray, to view images of your small intestine.
You will be asked to drink a chalky mixture called barium. This helps to outline your small intestine, making it more visible on the x-ray. You may also be asked to drink a methylcellulose solution that slightly distends the bowel, which again makes it easier to see via x-ray. As the barium makes its way through your system, which usually takes between 1 and 4 hours, a series of x-rays will be taken at intervals.
After the test, you’ll be advised to drink plenty of fluid to help wash the barium out of your body. You may have some mild bloating or constipation and your stools may look more pale than normal for a few days.
You will be asked not to eat and drink for several hours before the procedure. Your doctor will advise you if you need to make any changes to your medication or diet beforehand, although this is not usually the case.
Who needs a small bowel follow-thru?
A small bowel follow-thru procedure may be recommended if you have weight loss, abdominal pain, bloating or other gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s one of the most effective ways to examine the whole of the small bowel and can be useful in the diagnosis of intestinal conditions including Crohn’s disease.