Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series

The upper gastrointestinal (GI) series is a special kind of X-ray. During this test we will take pictures of your digestive system. The digestive system is the part of your body in charge of eating food and grinding it up so that the rest of your body can use it.

If you have any questions about this test, please contact the Radiology Department.

How do I get ready for the test?

You may not eat breakfast or have anything to drink (not even water) before this test. As soon as the test is over, you may eat again!

Where will the test take place?

The upper GI series is done in the Radiology Department. The Radiology Department is the place in the hospital where X-ray pictures are taken.

Who will perform the test?

A technologist is the person who takes X-rays. The technologist has many other jobs as well. He or she helps the doctor and answers your questions.

What will I see in the testing room?

The technologist will bring you into a large room where you will see machines and a high table. The machines are like large cameras. The machines are hooked up to a TV screen where you and the doctor can watch how your digestive system works.

What happens during the test?

The test begins with you either standing up with your back against the table or lying down on your back on the table. Your starting position depends on the way the doctor thinks is best for you.

We will give you a cup of barium with a straw. Barium is what you drink during the test to make your digestive system visible on the X-ray. Barium is white and tastes a little chalky. The barium may be flavored chocolate or strawberry.

If you watch the TV screen, right after you drink barium it will look black as it follows the path that your food follows. Try to drink only when the doctor asks you to drink. We may ask you to think of your favorite foods so that your stomach will get excited and start working.

If you started the test standing up, the doctor will give you a ride on the table until you are lying down. If you want a ride but do not get one, just ask at the end of the test—"we're pretty good about table rides."

While you are lying on your side, the doctor will ask you to drink more barium through the straw, and then ask you to turn over on your back so we can continue the X-ray.

When we take X-ray pictures, the TV screen flashes and you will hear a low humming noise from the machine. The doctor will ask you to lie very still so that the X-ray pictures will be clear.

Drinking barium and taking X-ray pictures are the only things that will happen during this test. After we have all the X-ray pictures the doctor needs, this test is all done! Then you may eat and drink.

Page reviewed on: Jan 25, 2005