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An upper GI (gastrointestinal tract) series allows the radiology team to view the upper GI tract. It includes the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).
An upper GI series with small bowel series includes the esophagus, stomach, and the entire small intestine.
This procedure uses a technology called fluoroscopy to look inside the body and see internal organs in motion. It is like a “live” X-ray that is viewed on a computer screen. The patient swallows a contrast liquid that contains a substance called barium. This milky-white liquid helps the esophagus, stomach, and intestines appear more clearly. The radiology team watches as the barium travels down the gastrointestinal tract. Some patients are also given baking-soda crystals (similar to Alka-Seltzer®) to further improve the images. This procedure is called an air-contrast or double-contrast upper GI.
Patients may have an upper GI series to help find the cause of certain symptoms:
An upper GI series may take 20 minutes to 1 hour.
An upper GI with small bowel series may take 2-6 hours or perhaps longer. The length of time depends on how long it takes for the contrast liquid to make its way through the small intestine.
A radiologist and radiological technologist perform the test.
An upper GI series is a type of X-ray. It uses a small amount of ionizing radiation to produce images. The medical benefits far outweigh the small amount of radiation exposure. Parents should discuss any concerns with the medical team.
Parents should make sure the patient:
The test does not hurt. The X-ray machine (fluoro tower) does not touch the patient.
The contrast liquid may not taste pleasant. The family can ask about adding flavoring.
The test can take several hours depending on how quickly the barium moves through the system. Parents should talk to the staff about what the patient can do during the waiting period.
Parents should give the patient extra liquids because the barium may cause constipation.
Stools may appear white or gray for a day or two due to the barium.
The radiologist will interpret the results and send a report to the doctor who ordered the test. A member of the medical team will share results at the next appointment.
Together does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.
Reviewed: June 2018