Points to remember when dealing with Upper GI Series

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 07, 2011

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Quick Bites

  • Upper GI series diagnoses upper GI tract problems.
  • It uses X-rays and fluoroscopy for the detection of ailments.
  • GI tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, duodenum.
  • Constipation and allergy to barium can be its side effects.

Problems of the upper GI tract are diagnosed through an upper GI series which uses X-rays and fluoroscopy for the detection of ailments. It is also known as barium swallow.

The first part of your GI tract is known as upper GI tract which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, duodenum (first part of the small intestine), and small intestine.


Points to Remember when Going for an Upper GI Series

There are two types of upper GI series:
1. Standard barium upper GI series- it uses only barium during the test.
2. Double-contrast upper GI series- it uses a combination of air and barium to create a detailed view of the stomach lining.

Problems that can be diagnosed with an upper GI series are:


  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swallowing problems
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • It can also show
  • abnormal growths.
  • esophageal varices—abnormal, enlarged veins in the lower part of the esophagus.
  • gastroesophageal reflux, which occurs when stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus.
  • a hiatal hernia, or when the upper part of the stomach slips through the diaphragm and moves up into the chest. The diaphragm is the muscle wall that separates the stomach from the chest.
  • inflammation, or swelling, of the GI tract.
  • scars or strictures—abnormal narrowing of openings in the body.
  • ulcers—sores on the stomach or intestinal lining.

Upper GI Series

Doctors usually ask the patients not to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum during the eight hours of the procedure so that a clear upper GI tract is ensured.

The patient may expect to feel bloated or nauseous for sometime after the procedure. They however can resume most normal activities after leaving the hospital.

The patient may also experience their stool to turn white or light coloured for several days after the procedure.

If you have had an upper GI series and are experiencing symptoms like failure to have a bowel movement within 2 days of the procedure, fever, inability to pass gas, severe abdominal pain, and severe constipation, should seek immediate medical attention.

Risks of an Upper GI Series

A very rare risk from the exposure to radiations emitted during the procedure is cancer. The cause of it is however unknown. But, some common after effects of an upper GI series can be:

  • Constipation from the barium
  • Allergic reaction to the barium
  • Bowel obstruction

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conduct and support basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Understanding Upper GI Series.


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