An upper GI series is an X-ray of the upper gastrointestinal area. It can be referred to as a barium swallow when the examination is performed for the pharynx or esophagus. This is a common procedure used to visualize the stomach and small intestines.
The upper GI series can identify and locate ulcers, obstructions, polyps and other inflammatory diseases of the stomach and small intestine. An upper GI examination takes less than one hour. The small bowel examination immediately follows the upper GI to watch the flow of barium throughout the small intestine until it reaches your colon (large intestine). Time-delayed pictures are taken and reviewed by the radiologist. A small bowel examination can last from one to four hours.
Your physician will give you complete instructions before the exam. They will include "nothing to eat or drink after midnight on the day before the examination." The morning of your examination, you should not eat or drink anything, take medication or chew gum. You may brush your teeth but do not swallow any water. If possible, don't take your medications until the exam is complete.
Please check in at Central Registration in the Main Lobby before reporting to the Radiology Department if you have not been preregistered over the phone.
During the Exam
You will be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown. You will stand against the X-ray table and the X-ray equipment will be positioned in front of you. You may or may not be given a carbonated beverage that would accompany a barium drink.
Barium is a liquid contrast medium that looks like a milkshake and may be flavored. When you swallow this liquid, it coats the throat and stomach so the radiologist can see the soft tissue structure. The radiologist will watch as you drink the barium and he or she will take X-ray images. The X-ray table will be moved to a lying down position. You will be asked to turn from side to side and more images will be taken.
If you are having a small bowel examination in addition to the stomach examination, you will have more images taken at specific intervals to watch the progression of the barium through your small intestine until it reaches your large intestine.
After the Exam
After this procedure, you may resume normal activities. Drink six to eight glasses of fluids such as juice, water or coffee. Take a laxative, if needed, to prevent constipation.
Once the exam is complete, a radiologist will study the X-rays and compare them to any available prior X-rays of this same area. The radiologist will send a report of the findings to your physician.