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Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI) Series

How It Is Done

A UGI series is usually done in a clinic or the X-ray department of a hospital. You do not need to stay overnight in the hospital. The test is done by a radiologist and a radiology technologist.

You will need to take off your clothes and put on a hospital gown. You will need to take out any dentures and take off any jewelry. You may not smoke or chew gum during the test, since the stomach will respond by making more gastric juices and this will slow the movement of the barium through the intestines.

You will lie on your back on an X-ray table. The table is tilted to bring you to an upright position with the X-ray machine in front of you. Straps may be used to keep you safely on the table. The technologist will make sure you are comfortable during changes in table position.

You will have one X-ray taken before you drink the barium mix. Then you will take small swallows repeatedly during the series of X-rays that follow. The radiologist will tell you when and how much to drink. By the end of the test, you may have swallowed 1 cup (240 mL) to 2.5 cup (600 mL) of the barium mixture. See a picture of a barium swallow test camera.gif.

The radiologist watches the barium pass through your gastrointestinal tract using fluoroscopy and X-ray pictures. The table is tilted at different positions and you may change positions to help spread the barium. Some gentle pressure is put on your belly with a belt or by the technologist's gloved hand. You may be asked to cough so that the radiologist can see how that changes the barium flow. See an image of a barium swallow camera.gif.

If you are having an air-contrast study, you will sip the barium liquid through a straw with a hole in it or take pills that make gas in your stomach. The air or gas that you take in helps show the lining of the stomach and intestines in greater detail.

If you are also having a small bowel study, the radiologist watches as the barium passes through your small intestine into your large intestine. X-ray pictures are taken every 30 minutes.

The UGI series takes 30 to 40 minutes. The UGI series with a small bowel study takes 2 to 6 hours. In some cases, you may be asked to return after 24 hours to have more X-ray pictures taken.

When the UGI series is done, you may eat and drink whatever you like, unless your doctor tells you not to.

You may be given a laxative or enema to flush the barium out of your intestines after the test to prevent constipation. Drink a lot of fluids for a few days to flush out the barium.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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