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What is an upper GI series?

Your doctor may recommend an upper GI series. It goes by multiple names such as upper GI series, barium study, barium swallow, or barium esophagram. This is a simple test that is usually done at a hospital in the X-ray or radiology department. It involves drinking a liquid material that may be chalky tasting that is closely followed by an X-ray examination. The entire exam usually takes less than 30 minutes. Normally, the esophagus and upper gastroesophageal tract cannot be seen well on X-ray. However, the barium liquid coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, which allows careful examination. Sometimes the doctor or technician may ask you to take something called fizzies. This is a material that produces gas and helps to distend your stomach so it can be more carefully examined. Rarely, you may need an intravenous line (IV) to administer other medications, but generally an IV is used for examination of the small intestine, which is not an issue when evaluating for acid reflux.

A barium study is painless (unless you get an IV, which is only minimally painful). The amount of radiation is relatively small.When you are flying in an airplane, you are exposed to cosmic radiation; your radiation exposure during an upper GI exam is roughly equal to that of two round-trip flights from New York to Los Angeles. This is a small amount of radiation and should not be of concern.

A barium exam can be very helpful and give a lot of information. Inflammation of the esophagus can be can be found. It can also give your doctor direction if further testing is needed.


By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009

What is an upper GI series?- References