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An upper GI series is a procedure in which a doctor uses x-rays, fluoroscopy, and a chalky liquid called barium to view your upper GI tract. The barium will make your upper GI tract more visible on an x-ray.
The two types of upper GI series are
An upper GI series can help a doctor find the cause of
An upper GI series can also show
To prepare for an upper GI series, don’t eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum. You also will need to talk with your doctor.
In order to see your upper GI tract clearly, your doctor will most likely ask you not to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum during the 8 hours before the upper GI series.
You should talk with your doctor about any medical conditions you have and all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take.
Doctors don’t recommend x-rays for pregnant women because x-rays may harm the fetus. Tell your doctor if you are, or may be, pregnant. Your doctor may suggest a different procedure.
A doctor may recommend an upper GI series for your child when the benefits of the procedure outweigh the relatively small risk of x-rays. Talk with your child's doctor about safety measures used to lower your child's exposure to x-rays during the procedure.
An x-ray technician and a radiologist perform an upper GI series at a hospital or an outpatient center. You do not need anesthesia. The procedure usually takes about 2 hours. The procedure can take up to 5 hours if the barium moves slowly through your small intestine.
For the procedure, you’ll be asked to stand or sit in front of an x-ray machine and drink barium, which coats the lining of your upper GI tract. You will then lie on the x-ray table, and the radiologist will watch the barium move through your GI tract on the x-ray and fluoroscopy. The technician may press on your abdomen or ask you to change position several times to evenly coat your upper GI tract with the barium.
If you are having a double-contrast study, you will swallow gas-forming crystals that mix with the barium coating your stomach. Gas forms when the crystals and barium mix. The gas expands your stomach, which lets the radiologist see more details of your upper GI tract lining. The technician will then take additional x-rays.
After an upper GI series, you can expect the following:
A specialist will read the x-rays and send a report of the findings to your doctor.
The risks of an upper GI series include
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.