Medical Imaging and the Use of Barium Sulfate


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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.
Figure 1. A suspension of barium sulfate coats the intestinal tract, permitting greater visual detail than a traditional X-ray. (credit modification of work by “glitzy queen00”/Wikimedia Commons)

Medical Imaging and the Use of Barium Sulfate (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

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 2.3 ×× 10–8, 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 (Figure 1).

Medical imaging using barium sulfate can be used to diagnose acid reflux disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers in addition to other conditions.


Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:


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