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X-Ray Exams of the Digestive Tract

After the GI Tests

Generally, you can resume your usual activities and normal diet immediately after your GI tests. Unless fluid is restricted by your doctor for another medical condition, drink plenty of water or juice -- 8-10 glasses each day for three days -- to eliminate the barium from your colon.

It is normal for your stool to have a white or light color for up to three days after the test, and the barium enema given during a lower GI test may leave you feeling weak or dizzy.

 

The Risks of GI Tests

There is virtually no risk with the upper and lower GI tests, unless they are repeated several times within a few months' time, when radiation exposure can become a risk. Although radiation exposure is minimal, it is greater than for standard still X-rays. Steps will be taken during the test to minimize radiation exposure.

Other risks include:

  • Infection (very low risk with both the upper and lower GI tests)
  • Tearing the intestinal wall during a lower GI test; should this occur, surgery may be necessary. This is a very rare complication.

Cases Where GI Tests Should Not Be Performed

If you have an existing blockage or tear in the intestinal wall, the upper and lower GI tests should not be performed.

If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, you should not have these tests unless absolutely medically necessary. Talk to your doctor about other tests that can be more safely performed to diagnose your problem during pregnancy.

When to Call Your Doctor After GI Tests

After the GI tests, call your doctor if you have:

  • A temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This could be a sign of infection and should be treated right away.
  • A marked change in bowel habits (such as no bowel movement in two or three days after the test); remember, it is normal for your stool to have a white or light color for up to three days after the test.
  • Worsening of pain
  • Any unusual rectal drainage
  • Other symptoms that cause concern
  • Questions about the test or the results
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on August 28, 2014

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