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Upper GI

What is an Upper GI?

Also called an “upper gastrointestinal (GI) series” or simply “upper GI”, upper gastrointestinal tract radiography is an x-ray examination of the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine.  However, in order for the anatomy to show up on radiographic images, the upper gastrointestinal tract must be coated or filled with a contrast material called barium, an element that appears bright white on radiographs, or some other agent.

An upper GI procedure is done to observe digestive function or to detect abnormalities.

What will the exam be like?

Once you arrive at the imaging department, you will be asked to change into a gown before your examination.  You will also be asked to remove jewelry, or any metal objects that could obscure the images.

A Radiologic Technologist will position you in a standing position.  You may be asked to swallow baking soda crystals to create gas in your stomach.  Then you will be asked to drink a cup of liquid barium, which resembles a light-colored milkshake.

The Radiologist will watch the passage of barium into your esophagus and stomach on a fluoroscopic monitor.  Once the upper gastrointestinal tract is adequately coated with the barium, radiographs are obtained.

What will I experience during the procedure?

The liquid barium has a chalky taste.  If you receive gas producing crystals, you may feel the need to belch.  However, you will be told to hold the gas in as its presence in the stomach enhances the detail in the radiographic images.

First you will be standing up, and then lying down as the Radiologist obtains the pictures.  You will be asked to hold your breath to prevent blurring of the images.  You will be asked to move into different positions while standing and to roll into different positions while lying on the table.  These actions assure that the barium is coating all parts of the upper GI tract.  As the procedure continues you may be asked to drink more barium.

How do I prepare for the exam?

You will be informed of what to do to prepare for your exam when you schedule your appointment.

Typically, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight prior to the day of your exam.

Please follow the instructions given to you when scheduling your exam.

How long will the exam take?

It will generally take 30-60 minutes to complete your study.


You should have no discomfort or pain from this exam.  You may return to your normal daily activities unless otherwise instructed.  The barium may color stools gray or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure.  Sometimes the barium can cause temporary constipation, which can be treated with a laxative. Drinking extra fluids after the exam is recommended.


A Radiologist will study the images and a typed report will be sent to your designated health care provider.


Women should always inform their health care provider or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

If you should have any questions regarding this procedure, please call 815-942-2932 ext. 7130.