What preparation is involved in an Upper GI Series?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 17, 2013

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Quick Bites

  • Used to detect diagnose problems of the upper GI tract.
  • It detect ulcers, abnormal growths, scars or strictures.
  • The upper GI tract must be empty prior to an upper GI series.
  • You shouldn't eat or drink anything for 8 hours before it.

An upper GI series is a diagnostic procedure with x-rays to help diagnose problems of the upper GI tract that includes the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine.


Upper GI series


An upper GI series can help detect ulcers, abnormal growths, scars or strictures (narrowing of the GI tract), hiatal hernia, diverticula (bulges in the wall of the oesophagus or intestine) and oesophageal varices (enlarged veins in the oesophagus).



The upper GI tract must be empty prior to an upper GI series. You are asked not to eat0 or drink anything for 8 hours before the procedure. Smoking and chewing gum are also prohibited during this time. Moreover, patients are asked if they have any health conditions, particularly allergies to medications or foods and about all medications they are taking. Women who are expecting a child should let their doctor know of their condition as developing foetuses are particularly sensitive to x rays. To minimize exposure, doctor may suggest an alternate procedure such as upper GI endoscopy.


Upper GI series Risks

Mild constipation from the barium liquid is the most common complication of an upper GI series. Rarely barium liquid can cause bowel obstruction, a life-threatening condition that blocks the intestines. Drinking plenty of liquids after an upper GI series flushes out the barium and helps reduce the risks of constipation and bowel obstruction.

Barium can cause an allergic reaction, which is treated with antihistamines. Some barium liquids contain flavourings, which may also cause an allergic reaction. The risk of radiation-related damage to cells or tissues from an upper GI series is low. People who have recently undergone other x-ray tests should talk with their doctor about potential risks.


Those who experience any of the following rare symptoms should contact their doctor immediately.

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Failure to have a bowel movement within 2 days after the procedure
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Fever



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