Diagnostic Imaging: Upper Gastrointestinal Series

Getting ready for an upper gastrointestinal (upper G.I.) series

What is an upper gastrointestinal (upper G.I.) series/barium swallow?
An upper GI or barium swallow is an x-ray test used to examine the upper digestive tract (the esophagus, stomach and duodenum). These organs are not normally visible on x-rays, thus you need to swallow a liquid called barium, which does show on x-rays. This test is useful for finding ulcers, growths, inflammation in the GI tract, problems that cause narrowing of the esophagus and assesses some swallowing problems.

How do I prepare for an upper G.I. series/barium swallow?

  • You are to have nothing to eat or drink from midnight the night before your exam until your exam is complete. Do not chew gum or smoke prior to your barium x-ray.
  • You will be asked to remove some clothing and put on a hospital gown and pants.
  • DO NOT take any medication the morning of your test. Your stomach needs to be empty. Bring your medication with you to take after the test.
  • If you are diabetic, do not take your insulin before the exam. Bring your insulin with you and something to eat with it.

Who does the examination?
This procedure is done by a specially trained medical radiation technologist and the images are reported by a radiologist.

What happens during the test?
You will be asked to stand in front of an x-ray machine that has moving parts. This machine is equipped to do "fluoroscopy", which allows the imaging technologist to see your stomach on an imaging monitor. You will first be asked to swallow a gas producing "fizzy" drink that might make you feel like burping, but try not to. The resulting images will be better if you are able to keep yourself from burping. You will then be instructed to drink the barium, a liquid that looks like a milkshake. You will be instructed to move through different positions and asked to hold your breath for each picture so that your breathing does not blur the image.

The procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

When the test is completed, the images are reviewed and reported by a radiologist

What happens after the upper G.I. series/barium swallow?
You may go back to your normal diet unless you are told differently by your doctor. The barium will change the colour of your stool. If you tend to constipate, take a mild laxative that works for you. Drink lots of fluid for the 3 days following your test.

How do I find out the results ?
The radiologist will send a report to the doctor who sent you for the test. He/she will give you the results.

Last updated: Tue, 2013-04-09 13:44