Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI) Series
How It Feels
The barium liquid is thick and chalky,
and some people find it hard to swallow. A sweet flavor, like chocolate or
strawberry, is used to make it easier to drink. Some people do not like it when
the X-ray table tilts. You may find that pressure on your belly is
uncomfortable. After the test, many people feel bloated and a little
For 1 to 3 days after the test, your stool (feces) will
look white from the barium. Call your doctor if you are not able to have a
bowel movement in 2 to 3 days after the test. If the barium stays in your
intestine, it can harden and cause a blockage. If you become constipated, you
may need to use a laxative to pass a stool.
Barium does not move into the blood, so
allergic reactions are very rare.
people gag while drinking the barium fluid. In rare cases, a person may choke
and inhale (aspirate) some of the liquid into the lungs.
a small chance that the barium will block the intestine or leak into the belly
through a perforated ulcer. A special type of contrast material (Gastrografin)
can be used if you have a blockage or an ulcer.
There is always a
small chance of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation,
even the low level of radiation used for this test.
An upper gastrointestinal (UGI) series
looks at the upper and middle sections of the
gastrointestinal tract . Results are usually ready in 1
to 3 days.
Upper gastrointestinal (UGI) series
The esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
all look normal.
A narrowing (stricture), inflammation, a
hiatal hernia, or enlarged veins (varices) may be
seen. Spasms of the esophagus or a backward flow (reflux) of barium from the
stomach may occur.
The UGI series may show a stomach (gastric)
or intestinal (duodenal)
ulcer, a tumor, or something pushing on the intestines
from outside the gastrointestinal tract. Narrowing of the opening between the
stomach and the small intestine (pyloric stenosis) may be seen.
The small bowel follow-through may show
inflammation or changes in the lining that may explain poor absorption of food.
This may be caused by
Crohn's disease or
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- Eating before or during the
- Too much air in the small intestine.
What To Think About
- A gastrointestinal (GI) motility study may be
done if the squeezing motions of the small intestine are not normal during the
UGI series and small bowel follow-through. The movement of the barium through
the lower intestinal tract is recorded every few hours for up to 24 hours. A
barium enema or
colonoscopy may be needed to confirm the
- Upper endoscopy is done instead of a UGI test in
certain cases. Endoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) to look at the
lining of the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine (duodenum). For
more information, see the medical test
Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
- The UGI
- May not show irritation of the stomach
lining (gastritis) or esophagus (esophagitis) or ulcers that are smaller than
about 0.25 in. (6 mm) in
- Cannot show an infection with the bacteria
Helicobacter pyloriHelicobacter pylori, which may
be a cause of stomach ulcers.
biopsy cannot be done during the UGI if a problem is