Upper GI Series

What is an Upper GI/Small Bowel Series?

An Upper GI series is a fluoroscopic X-ray study that visualizes the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. When accompanied with a small bowel series, the entire small intestine is visualized. 

The patient undergoing an upper GI and/or small bowel series will drink one or more types of barium solutions that outline the anatomy of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.  Sometime patients will also swallow a barium pill and/or a highly carbonated drink to introduce air into the stomach.

How do I prepare for the exam?

A patient scheduled for an Upper GI and/or small bowel series should have nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before your exam. You will be asked to remove your shirt and pants and put on a hospital gown.

What will happen during the exam?

A radiographer will escort you into the radiology suite and may take preliminary X-rays of your abdomen. A staff member will question you about pertinent medical history and the reason for the exam.

At the beginning of the exam, the X-ray table will be in a vertical position and you will be asked to stand against it. The radiologist will then direct you to drink the barium solution while he/she watches the X-ray monitor. A number of "spot" images of your esophagus will be taken at this time.

The X-ray table will then be moved into a horizontal position with you laying on it. The radiologist will ask you to move into various positions as he/she takes additional spot images of your stomach. The radiographer will assist you with your movements. You may be asked to drink additional barium while lying on your stomach in a semi-oblique position. Once the imaging of the stomach and first part of the small intestine is completed, the upper GI is completed.

If you are booked for a small bowel series in addition to the upper GI, you will be given additional barium to drink. Additional radiographic images will be acquired over a period of time until the barium has traveled the entire distance of the small intestine. Once the barium has reached the large intestine, additional fluoroscopic images will be taken, and then the exam is complete.

How long will the exam take?

An upper GI takes approximately 15-30 minutes to complete. If a small bowel series accompanies an Upper GI, it should be noted that every patient’s barium transit time is different. The small bowel series can take several hours to complete if the barium does not transit quickly. Typical transit times take from 1-3 hours, and it is advised that the patient plan accordingly.

How will I get my results?

You will get the results back from your doctor.

Find a Doctor

Find primary care physicians and specialists.


Classes - Yoga, CPR, and more

Newton-Wellesley offers a variety of wellness center and childbirth education classes throughout the year. Learn CPR, practice yoga, prepare a sibling for a new child in the family, and more.
» Class info


2015 Top Docs List

More than 30 Newton-Wellesley affiliated physicians made Boston magazine's annual list recognizing some of the area's best doctors.
» Learn More  

Hospital Ranked #11

US News and World Report has ranked Newton-Wellesley Hospital 11th in Massachusetts.
» Learn More