Upper GI

  • Preparing for an Upper GI Tract X-Ray

    • You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
    • To ensure the best possible image quality, your stomach must be empty of food. Therefore, you should not to eat or drink anything beyond what is instructed below (including any non-prescription medications taken by mouth, especially antacids) and to refrain from chewing gum and smoking after midnight on the day of the examination.
    • You can take your usual prescribed oral medications with limited amounts of water.
    • You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to barium contrast materials. Also inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
    • Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
  • What to Expect During the Exam

    • During your examination, a technologist or radiologist will hold a fluroscope machine over the part of the body being examined, which transmits continuous images to a video monitor.
    • There are several types of upper GI tract x-rays:
      • A barium swallow examines the pharynx and/or esophagus to see how food moves toward the stomach. 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. The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
      • A modified barium swallow is performed with a speech therapist and radiologist. This procedure looks at the swallowing mechanisms with different liquid and food textures.
      • An upper GI series examines the esophagus, stomach and upper part of the small intestine. The procedure usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
      • A small bowel series examines the small intestine (small bowel). The procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours, depending upon how long it takes for the barium to reach the colon.
  • After the Exam

    • After the examination, you can resume a regular diet and take orally administered medications unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
    • The barium may color your stools gray or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure.
    • Sometimes the barium can cause temporary constipation, which is usually treated by an over-the-counter laxative. Drinking large quantities of fluids for several days following the test can also help.
    • If you are unable to have a bowel movement or if your bowel habits undergo any significant changes following the exam, you should contact your physician.
  • About Upper GI Tract X-Ray Radiography

    An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.

    Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography, also called an upper GI, is an x-ray examination of the pharynx, esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine (also known as the duodenum) that uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and an orally ingested contrast material called barium.

    Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. When the upper GI tract is coated with barium, the radiologist is able to view and assess the anatomy and function of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.

    For additional information visit www.radiologyinfo.org