Does barium sulfate give you diarrhea

Barium sulfate Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 30, 2019.

  • Overview
  • Side Effects
  • Dosage
  • Professional
  • Pregnancy
  • More

For the Consumer

Applies to barium sulfate: oral cream, oral paste, oral powder for suspension, oral suspension, oral tablet

Along with its needed effects, barium sulfate may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking barium sulfate:


  • Bloating
  • constipation (severe, continuing)
  • cramping (severe)
  • nausea or vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing

Incidence not known

  • Anxiety
  • blood in the stools
  • blood in the urine
  • blurred vision
  • bruising
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • cough
  • coughing or vomiting blood
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
  • fainting
  • fast heartbeat
  • hives or welts, itching, or skin rash
  • noisy breathing
  • persistent bleeding or oozing from puncture sites, mouth, or nose
  • redness of the skin
  • sudden shortness of breath or troubled breathing
  • sweating
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

Some side effects of barium sulfate may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • cramping

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to barium sulfate: compounding powder, oral capsule, oral cream, oral paste, oral powder for reconstitution, oral suspension, oral tablet, oral and rectal powder for reconstitution, oral and rectal suspension, rectal powder for reconstitution, rectal suspension


General side effects including severe reactions (approximately 1 in 1,000,000) and fatalities (approximately 1 in 10,000,000) have been reported.


Other side effects caused by procedural complications have been rare. Procedural complications have included aspiration pneumonitis, barium impaction, granuloma formation, intravasation, embolization and peritonitis following intestinal perforation, vasovagal and syncopal episodes, and fatalities.


It is of the utmost importance to be completely prepared to treat any EKG changes.

Cardiovascular side effects including EKG changes have been reported following or during barium enema procedures.


Gastrointestinal side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping accompanying the use of barium sulfate formulations have been infrequent and usually mild.

1. “Product Information. Readi-Cat 2 (barium sulfate).” E-Z-EM Inc, Lake Success, NY.

2. “Product Information. E-Z-Cat (barium sulfate).” E-Z-EM Inc, Lake Success, NY.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.

Medical Disclaimer

More about barium sulfate

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  • Drug class: non-iodinated contrast media

Consumer resources

  • Barium sulfate oral/rectal
  • Barium Tablets
  • Barium Capsules
  • Barium Oral Cream and Paste
  • Barium Suspension
  • Barium sulfate Oral, Rectal (Advanced Reading)

Other brands: Volumen, E-Z-Cat, Tagitol V, E-Z Paste, … +23 more

Professional resources


Related treatment guides

  • Computed Tomography

Barium Sulfate

Before taking or using barium sulfate,

  • tell your doctor and the staff at the testing center if you are allergic to barium sulfate, other radiopaque contrast media, simethicone (Gas-X, Phazyme, others), any other medications, any foods, latex, or any of the ingredients in the type of barium sulfate that you will be taking or using. Ask the staff at the testing center for a list of the ingredients.
  • tell your doctor and the staff at the testing center what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Your doctor will tell you whether you should take your medications on the day of your test and whether you should wait a certain amount of time between taking your regular medications and taking barium sulfate.
  • tell your doctor if you have recently had a rectal biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue from the rectum for laboratory examination) and if you have any blockage, sores, or holes in the esophagus, stomach, or intestine; or swelling or cancer of the rectum; Also tell your doctor if your infant or young child has any condition that affects his or her esophagus, stomach, or intestine, or has had surgery involving the intestines.Your doctor may tell you or your child not to take barium sulfate.
  • tell your doctor if you have recently had any type of surgery especially surgery involving the colon (large intestine) or rectum if you have had a colostomy (surgery to create an opening for waste to leave the body through the abdomen), intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri; high pressure in the skull that may cause headaches, vision loss, and other symptoms), or if you have ever aspirated food (inhaled food into the lungs). Also tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has or has ever had allergies and if you have or have ever had asthma; hay fever (allergy to pollen, dust, or other substances in the air); hives; eczema (red, itchy skin rash caused by allergy or sensitivity to substances in the environment); constipation; cystic fibrosis (inherited condition in which the body produces thick, sticky mucus that can interfere with breathing and digestion); Hirschsprung’s disease (inherited condition in which the intestines do not work normally); high blood pressure; or heart disease.
  • tell your doctor if there is any chance that you are pregnant, if you plan to become pregnant, or if you are breast-feeding. The radiation used in x-rays and CT scans may harm the fetus.

Readi-cat 2

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 02/16/2017

Readi-Cat 2 (barium sulfate suspension) is a positive contrast agent for radiographic studies indicated for use in Computed Tomography to opacify the GI tract. Common side effects of Readi-Cat 2 include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea, and
  • abdominal cramping.

Less common side effects of Readi-Cat 2 include:

  • a mild allergic reaction (itching, skin redness, or hives),
  • weakness,
  • pale skin,
  • ringing in the ears,
  • sweating, and
  • slow heart rate.

The dose of the Readi-Cat 2 suspension to be administered depends on the degree and extent of contrast required in the area(s) under examination and on the equipment and technique employed. Readi-Cat 2 may interact with other drugs. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use. Readi-Cat 2 is not recommended for use during pregnancy; radiation may harm a fetus. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Our Readi-Cat 2 (barium sulfate suspension) Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Latest update: January 6, 2020
Many people inquire about what it is like to drink this stuff. Turns out drinking barium sulfate is no big deal.

  • Just do exactly what the bottle and doc says.
  • The taste is bland.
  • I experienced no side or after effects.

Barium Sulfate Oral Suspension for CT Scans

The Doc aka medical service provider specifies a procedure requiring the drinking consumption of a barium sulfate solution up to 24 hours prior and just before the CT scan; yep, you’ll usually need to drink it the day before the test and just prior to the test. In other words, they do have you drink several doses before the actual CT. It sounds like it is a big deal and a pain in the neck, but it isn’t.
I immediately did the research on the .gov sites and elsewhere. I ended up with the impression that I was going to gag on the stuff. That information is false. It was bland and no big deal whatsoever. They’ll even give you a choice as to flavor. I ended up with vanilla.
Again, the stuff was just plain bland and no problem(s). I hope this page helps mitigate all the false information out there. And I might add, the volume looks a lot larger than it is. A few medium sips did the trick for each dosage. No need to to do large swallows or such. Do shake the stuff before drinking as the bottle says; an even mixture gives the technician and doc what they need.
And again concerning side effects before, during, and after; nothing out of the ordinary occurred. I wish all medical tests and procedures were this uneventful.

An Update. I have seen posts where people have talked about digestive problems when drinking barium sulfate. Just to be on the safe side, maybe drink that first major dose when you know you will be home for the next several hours. Nothing should happen, but who knows what might happen if other medications or certain foods are involved? One would think the technician would warn a patient about such things, but that is not always the case. Based on my own experience, you will be fine; but might as well play it safe.
– End of Article –
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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Hypersensitivity Reactions

Barium sulfate preparations contain a number of excipients, including natural and artificial flavors and may induce serious hypersensitivity reactions. The manifestations include hypotension, bronchospasm and other respiratory impairments, dermal reactions including rashes, urticaria, and itching. A history of bronchial asthma, atopy, or a previous reaction to a contrast agent may increase the risk for hypersensitivity reactions. Emergency equipment and trained personnel should be immediately available for treatment of a hypersensitivity reaction.

Intra-abdominal Barium Leakage

The use of READI-CAT 2 products is contraindicated in patients at high risk of perforation of the GI tract . Administration of READI-CAT 2 products may result in leakage of barium from the GI tract in the presence of conditions such as carcinomas, GI fistula, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric or duodenal ulcer, appendicitis, or diverticulitis, and in patients with a severe stenosis at any level of the GI tract, especially if it is distal to the stomach. The barium leakage has been associated with peritonitis and granuloma formation.

Delayed Gastrointestinal Transit And Obstruction

Orally administered barium sulfate may accumulate proximal to a constricting lesion of the colon, causing obstruction or impaction with development of baroliths (inspissated barium associated with feces) and may lead to abdominal pain, appendicitis, bowel obstruction, or rarely perforation. Patients with the following conditions are at higher risk for developing obstruction or baroliths: severe stenosis at any level of the GI tract, impaired GI motility, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, on a low residue diet, taking medications that delay GI motility, and constipation, pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis or Hirschsprung disease, and the elderly . To reduce the risk of delayed GI transit and obstruction, patients should maintain adequate hydration following a barium sulfate procedure.

Aspiration Pneumonitis

The use of READI-CAT 2 products is contraindicated in patients at high risk of aspiration . Oral administration of barium is associated with aspiration pneumonitis, especially in patients with a history of food aspiration or with compromised swallowing mechanism. Vomiting following oral administration of barium sulfate may lead to aspiration pneumonitis. In patients at risk for aspiration, begin the procedure with a small ingested volume of READI-CAT 2 products. Discontinue administration of READI-CAT 2 products immediately if aspiration is suspected.

Systemic Embolization

Barium sulfate products may occasionally intravasate into the venous drainage of the large bowel and enter the circulation as a “barium embolus” leading to potentially fatal complications which include systemic and pulmonary embolism, disseminated intravascular coagulation, septicemia and prolonged severe hypotension. Although this complication is exceedingly uncommon after oral administration of barium sulfate suspension, monitor patients for potential intravasation when administering barium sulfate.

Risk Of Hereditary Fructose Intolerance

READI-CAT 2 contains sorbitol which may cause severe reactions if ingested by patients with hereditary fructose intolerance, such as: vomiting, hypoglycemia, jaundice, hemorrhage, hepatomegaly, hyperuricemia, and kidney failure. Before administration of READI-CAT 2 assess patients for a history of hereditary fructose intolerance and avoid use in these patients.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility

No animal studies have been performed to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of barium sulfate or potential effects on fertility.

Uses In Specific Populations


Risk Summary READI-CAT 2 products are not absorbed systemically following oral administration, and maternal use is not expected to result in fetal exposure to the drug.


Risk Summary READI-CAT 2 products are not absorbed systemically by the mother following oral administration, and breastfeeding is not expected to result in exposure of the infant to READI-CAT 2.

Pediatric Use

The efficacy of READI-CAT 2 in pediatric patients of all groups is based on successful opacification of the GI tract during radiographic procedures .

READI-CAT 2 is contraindicated in pediatric patients with tracheo-esophageal fistula . Pediatric patients with a history of asthma or food allergies may be at increased risk for development of hypersensitivity reactions . Pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis or Hirschsprung disease should be monitored for bowel obstruction after use .

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of READI-CAT 2 products do not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Instructions for taking Oral Contrast (Barium Sulfate)

  1. Do not eat or drink anything three hours prior to your appointment time.
  2. Shake the contrast well before drinking. It does not need to be refrigerated, but tastes better when cold.
  3. Begin drinking the contrast one and a half hours before your scheduled exam time. Drink one-third of a bottle every fifteen minutes. Save the last third and bring it with you to your appointment.

If you are taking the drug Glucophage (or something similar) for diabetes, please let the technologist know before you are scanned. If you are allergic to iodine or have had a reaction to CT dye in the past, please call as soon as possible to receive special instructions and medications.

Enteroclysis Drinking Instructions (Volumon Contrast )

  1. Do not eat or drink three hours prior to your appointment time.
  2. Shake the contrast well before drinking. It does not need to be refrigerated, but tastes better when cold.
  3. Begin drinking the contrast one hour prior to your scheduled exam time. Drink first bottle in 20 min, drink second bottle in 20 min, and half of the third bottle in 20 min. Save the last half of the third bottle for visit to CT.

Iodine Allergies

If you have iodine allergies, you must do the following (doctor prescribed):

  • Take the 13-hour premedication preparation.


  • For enteroclysis do not eat or drink 6 hours prior to your exam.

Biopsy/Drain Placements

  • For biopsy or drain placement, do not eat or drink after midnight.

IV Sedation

If sedated by IV, you must do the following:

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight or eight hours previous.
  • Bring someone to drive you home.

General Anesthesia

If the procedure will be performed while you are under general anesthesia (doctor prescribed), you must do the following:

  • Arrive one and a half hours early to check into admitting.
  • Do not eat or drink anything eight hours previous.

Prep for abdominal and pelvic CT scan

Berkshire Medical Center
CAT Scan Department
(413)447-2114 ext.4414

Your Doctor has scheduled you for a CT scan of your Abdominal and Pelvic structures, which requires drinking “Readi-Cat II” (barium sulfate contrast) and the possibility of an injection of IV contrast material just prior to the exam.

DO NOT stop taking your medication. All medications may be taken with a small sip of water. If possible, try to avoid taking your regular medications at the same time as the contrast material. Doing so could reduce the effectiveness of your medications.

The following is the preparation for your exam;

  • Have nothing to eat or drink four (4) hours prior to your exam except as stated above.
  • Place both bottles of “Readi-Cat II” contrast material in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Shake the contrast material well before drinking.
  • Drink the first bottle of contrast two (2) hours prior to your exam time.
  • Drink the second bottle of contrast one (1) hour prior to your exam time.
  • When you arrive in the CT Department you will be asked to drink a cup of contrast just prior to your exam, with the possibility of having an injection of IV contrast at this time.

*Barium contrast is not absorbed into the body; it passes through your colon which may cause loose stools. It can cause bowel movements within the 2 hour period that you are consuming the Readi-CAT. Contact your physician or come to the Emergency Room if you experience any shortness of breath or chest pain after drinking the contrast material.

Please allow time for traffic and parking. We ask that you arrive in the Radiology Department 30 minutes prior to your exam for insurance verification and final exam preparation. If for any reason you are unable to keep this appointment, please try and give 24 hours notice. If you need to cancel or reschedule please call (413) 447-2114 ext. 4414. Our staff is available 24 hours a day to assist you with any questions or concerns that you might have.

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