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Upper GI series test

  • What is an upper GI?

    An upper GI is a diagnostic test using X-rays and barium to visualize the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestines (digestive tract). Barium is the contrast material used in the test.

    For this exam, you will need to swallow powdered bicarbonate, followed by a small amount of water. Immediately afterwards you will be asked to swallow a barium drink, which will taste chalky. As the drink is swallowed, the radiologist will watch it pass into the digestive tract on a special X-ray screen. You will be repositioned several times during the procedure as X-rays are taken.

    The test can take one-half hour to two hours to complete. As the barium passes into the intestines, additional X-rays may be taken.

    Test preparation

    • The evening meal before the exam should consist of simple carbohydrates, including: clear broth or bouillon, fruit, dry toast, jelly, plain jello, clear tea or black coffee (no cream or milk), apple, grape or cranberry juice, or ginger ale.
    • Nothing by mouth after midnight until the exam is completed. This includes gum, life-savers, cigarettes, or coffee.
    • If you are diabetic or take any medication, special consideration may be necessary. (Discuss this with the radiologist or your doctor.)

    Special instructions

    If you are prone to constipation, you should take a laxative after the exam and drink extra amounts of fluids for one to two days.

    If you have not had a bowel movement within 24 hours after the test, you should take a laxative.

    You will pass light colored bowel movements for one to two days after the test.

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