UGI / Barium Swallow

What is an Upper GI/Barium swallow?

This fluoroscopy exam is preformed specifically to examine your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the pharynx, esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine (duodenum). If the exam involves only the pharynx and esophagus, the procedure is called a barium swallow.

What can you expect during your exam? After you put on your gown, a technologist helps position you on the exam table. You will drink a milkshake-like liquid that contains barium, a contrast substance. In a double-upper GI, you may be asked to swallow baking-soda crystals to create gas in the stomach.

The barium coats the walls of the organs and tissues in your GI tract, making them appear white. The radiologist or radiologist assistant uses a small x-ray device called a fluoroscope to capture and display real-time images on a monitor. Your abdomen may be compressed to spread the barium. You will be asked to keep still during the exam to avoid blurry images. If a small bowel series is part of the exam, you will drink more barium and images will be taken at 15 or 30 minute intervals as the barium travels the length of the small bowel.

How can you prepare for your Upper GI / Barium swallow?

  • Refrain from eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking or taking anything by mouth (e.g. antacids) after midnight on the day of the exam.
  • Inform your physician of medications you are taking, allergies (especially to contrast material), and recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry. You may be asked to remove eye glasses and any other objects that might interfere with the x-ray images.