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Upper GI Series/Esophagogastroduodenoscopy

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) series looks at the upper and middle sections of the gastrointestinal tract. The test uses barium contrast material, fluoroscopy, and X-ray. Fluoroscopy is a kind of X-ray.

Upper GI Endoscopy

  • Preparing for the procedure

    How do you prepare for an upper GI series?

    You may be asked to eat a low-fiber diet for 2 or 3 days before the test. You may also be asked to stop eating for 12 hours before the test. Your doctor will tell you if you need to stop taking certain medicines before the test.

    The evening before the test, you may be asked to take a laxative to help clean out your intestines. If your stomach can't empty well on its own, you may have a special tube put through your nose and down into your stomach just before the test begins. A gentle suction on the tube will drain the stomach contents.

    If you are having the small bowel follow-through after the upper GI series, you'll need to wait between X-rays. The entire small bowel follow-through exam takes up to 6 hours, so bring along a book to read or some other quiet activity.

  • During the procedure

    How is an upper GI series done?

    • You will need to take off your clothes and put on a hospital gown.
    • Take out any dentures, and take off any jewelry.
    • You will lie on your back on an X-ray table.
    • You will have an X-ray taken before you drink the barium mix. Then you’ll take small swallows repeatedly during the series of X-rays that follow.
    • The doctor watches the barium pass through your GI tract using fluoroscopy and X-ray pictures. The table is tilted at different positions, and you may change positions to help spread the barium.
    • You may be given a laxative or enema to flush the barium out of your intestines after the test to prevent constipation.
  • After the procedure

    What happens after an upper GI series?

    • You will probably be able to go home right away. Results of the test are usually ready in 1 to 3 days.
    • You can go back to your usual activities right away. You may eat and drink whatever you like, unless your doctor tells you not to. It’s a good idea to drink a lot of fluids for a few days to flush out the barium.
    • For 1 to 3 days after the test, your stool (feces) will look white from the barium.
    • If the barium stays in your intestine, it can harden and cause a blockage. If you get constipated, you may need to use a laxative to pass a stool.
    • In some cases, you may be asked to come back after 24 hours to have more X-rays taken.

    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.