Your Upper GI Series at St. Mary's - What to Expect
An Upper G.I. Series is an x-ray of your esophagus (swallowing tube) and your stomach. These parts of your body cannot be seen well on regular x-rays without the use of a substance called barium. Barium is a white or pink liquid that coats the esophagus and stomach as you drink it so these body parts can be seen on x-ray.
You should not eat, drink, or smoke after midnight until the x-ray is completed.
If you have had a barium x-ray of any kind within 4 days before this Upper G.I. Series, you will need to take a laxative to get rid of the old barium. The stomach and small bowel must be empty to get clear pictures
You will be asked to put on a hospital gown and remove any necklaces.
You will be helped onto a special x-ray table. The x-ray staff and doctor will explain more about your Upper G.I. Series. They can answer any questions you have.
If you are able, the first x-rays will be taken while you stand. You will be given a cup of barium to drink while the pictures are taken. The barium is flavored and chalky.
You will be asked to move into different positions. For some pictures, the x-ray table will be moved so that you are lying down. When each x-ray is taken you will be asked to hold your breath and remain as still as possible.
Sometimes part of the x-ray machine may press on your abdomen to get better pictures. Tell someone if this is uncomfortable. We want to make you as comfortable as possible.
The doctor may need to look at your small intestine (small bowel). This is called a Small Bowel Series. You will be given 2-3 more cups of barium to drink. Pictures will be taken every 30 minutes until the entire small bowel (about 20 feet) is filled with barium. You will wait and sip barium in the waiting area between picture taking.
After the Test
For the first 1-2 days after the x-ray, your bowel movements may appear white and chalky. This is normal. Ask your doctor if you should take a laxative and drink extra liquids to help clean out the barium and prevent constipation.