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What Is An Upper GI Series?

What Can Your Doctor See Of Your Digestive Tract During This Test?


Updated May 26, 2014

What Is An Upper GI Series?

An upper gastrointestinal (upper GI) series utilizes X-rays to find problems in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). Sometimes it may be used to examine the small intestine.

Why This Test Is Used

Blockages, abnormal growths, ulcers, or a problem with the function of an organ can be found with an upper GI series. The radiologist will also be able to see scar tissue and hernias.


The night before the test you will not be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. To insure accurate test, your stomach and small intestine must be empty when the test is conducted. Follow any other instructions your doctor gives you carefully.

How It's Done

You will drink some barium, which is a milkshake-like liquid. The barium will coat the inside of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum which makes them show up clearly on an X-ray. Using a flouroscope, the radiologist will watch the barium move through your digestive system. As it moves, any problems in the function of the digestive system will be evident. When the barium moves into the small intestine the radiologist will take X-rays of it.

How Long It Takes

The entire test can take 1 to 2 hours and is not uncomfortable. The barium may cause some white colored stool and constipation for a few days after the test.

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