Upper GI Series and Small Bowel Series

What is Upper GI Series and Small Bowel Series?

Gastrointestinal (GI) series uses x-ray to diagnose problems in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). It may also be used to examine the small intestine. The upper GI series can show a blockage, abnormal growth, ulcer, or a problem with the way an organ is working. Both the upper GI series and the small bowel series require the use of barium. Barium is a harmless, flavored, white or pink liquid substance which, when swallowed, allows the radiologist to observe and document the condition of the digestive tract.


Please do not eat or drink anything, chew gum or smoke after midnight the night before your appointment.

The upper GI series usually require 30 to 45 minutes to complete the study.

small bowel series requires 2 to 4 hours to complete.

You may be at The Radiology Clinic longer than that due to check-in and the interview with the technologist.

If you have children, please make arrangements for childcare, as there are no childcare facilities on site. Children are not allowed in the examination room.

What To Expect

After check-in, changing into a gown and answering questions concerning your symptoms, you will meet the radiologist. You will be asked to swallow the barium. You may also be asked to swallow small crystals that will create gas to distend your stomach so that the barium better coats your stomach. A fluoroscope will be used by the radiologist to watch the barium as it travels through your GI tract. The radiologist can see ulcers, scar tissue, abnormal growths, hernias or areas where something is blocking the normal path of food through the digestive system. You will be asked to move into a number of positions during the examination and hold your breath while images of certain areas are taken.

Following the fluoroscope portion of the examination, the radiologist will leave the x-ray room. Your technologist may take additional films as specified by the radiologist. Once again, you will be instructed to move into a number of positions and hold your breath briefly during each exposure.

Follow Up

You may resume your regular diet, unless otherwise instructed by your physician. The barium may be constipating, therefore, drink as much fluid as possible after the exam. A mild laxative may be taken if needed.

Your referring physician will be provided results within 2-3 working days.