Mercy Regional Health Center
PrintEmail

Barium Swallow/Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI)

What is an upper gastrointestinal?
What happens during the exam?
How should I prepare for the procedure?
What should I wear?
What happens after the test?
What are the risks?
How long does the exam take?
Will I be able to feel the exam?
When is this exam useful?
When will I get my test results?


What is an upper gastrointestinal?

An upper GI is an x-ray study that reviews the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) area, or your esophagus, stomach and small intestine.

Top


What happens during the exam?
You will be asked to swallow barium liquid that will allow your GI tract to be seen on the x-rays. The mixture will have a chalky texture. You may also be given some granules that will fizz and make air build up in your stomach. You will be asked not to burp, no matter how much you want to. Try to remain as relaxed as you can during the exam.
 
This procedure uses a special x-ray machine called a fluoroscope to take a series of x-rays as the barium moves through your esophagus, stomach and small intestines. The images are viewed on a special TV monitor and captured for the record.
 
To obtain the best images possible, you will be asked to move into different positions. You may be asked to hold your breath for a couple of seconds during the x-ray captures. You may need to wait while the technologist checks the image quality.

Top

 
How should I prepare for the procedure?
You are responsible for following all preparation instructions in order to obtain the best images possible.

  • You cannot eat or drink ANYTHING after midnight before your test. This means no breakfast the day of the test.
  • You can usually take your normal medications before the test, but consult with your doctor to be sure.
  • If you are a diabetic, consult with your doctor regarding how to best manage your diet restrictions.
  • Let your technologist know about all of the following:
    • when you last ate or drank
    • if you are or might be pregnant
    • any previous surgeries
    • any medications you take

It is important that you follow your preparation instructions carefully to create the best images possible for your doctor.

Top

 
What should I wear?
Most patients are asked to wear a hospital gown for the exam. You will also need to remove all jewelry.

Top

 
What happens after test?
You may go back to your normal activities after the test. You will need to drink plenty of water to help the barium pass through your system and avoid constipation. Your stool will look white or light until the barium passes. Let the doctor know if you cannot pass your bowels within two to three days after the test.

Top

 
What are the risks?
This is an x-ray procedure so you will receive a small dose of radiation; however, the exam's benefit is well worth this small exposure. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are or may be pregnant.

Top

 
How long does the exam take?
After you have checked in, it will take about an hour for the UGI.

Top


Will I be able to feel the exam?
No. The x-rays are painless.

Top


When is this exam useful?
An upper GI may reveal problems with the function or structure of your esophagus, stomach or small intestines. It may spot ulcers, inflammation, cancer or problems absorbing nutrients through your bowel, in addition to other things.

Top


When will I get my test results?
The radiologist will review your test results and provide a report to your doctor in a timely manner. Please follow up with your doctor to get your test results.

Top