Medical Library

Medical Library

Upper GI and/or Small Bowel Series

What Is Upper GI Tract X-ray (Radiography)?
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 a contrast material called barium. The radiologist is able to view and assess the anatomy and function of the pharynx, esophagus, stomach and the duodenum. 

A small bowel series is an x-ray examination of the small intestines. Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. In addition to drinking barium, some patients are also given baking-soda crystals to further improve the images. This procedure is called an air-contrast or double-contrast upper GI.

Common Uses Of Upper GI Exams
An upper GI examination helps evaluate digestive function and to detect ulcers, tumors, inflammation of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, hiatal hernias, scarring, blockages, or abnormalities of the muscular wall of gastrointestinal tissues. The procedure is also used to help diagnose symptoms such as, difficulty swallowing, chest and abdominal pain, reflux (a backward flow of partially digested food and digestive juices), unexplained vomiting, severe indigestion, blood in the stool (indicating internal GI bleeding). The small bowel series is used to detect conditions, such as tumors, malabsorption, swelling and irritation of the small intestines. 

Patient Preparation For The Upper GI Exam
  • You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to contrast material
  • Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. 
  • To ensure the best possible image quality, your stomach must be empty of food. 
  • The day before your exam, have a clear liquid diet for supper. 
  • Fast for at least 6 hours prior to your exam time (nothing to eat or drink. Including medications taken by mouth, especially antacids).
  • Refrain from chewing gum and smoking after midnight on the day of the examination
  • After the procedure, drink plenty of clear fluids.
  • You may be asked to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
  • If your physician orders an esophogram, the esophagus will be evaluated and you will only need to fast 6 hours prior to the exam.

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