Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI) Series
How It Is Done continued...
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.
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.
After the test
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.
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 nauseated.
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.