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G.I. Series
(Gastrointestinal Series; Upper G.I.; Esophagus, stomach, and duodenum)

Patient Information Sheet
Palo Alto Medical Foundation Department of Radiology Palo Alto

For your convenience you may wish to print this page and write in the time and location of your appointment. If you have any questions or concerns about the test please give us a call at (650) 853-2955.

Time: ____________________ Date:_______________________

Radiology Department Location:

Palo Alto
795 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 853-2955

What is an upper G.I.?

Source: National Institute of Health (NIH)

The upper gastrointestinal (GI) series uses x-rays 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.

During the procedure, you will drink barium, a thick, white, milkshake-like liquid. Barium coats the inside lining of the esophagus, stomach and, duodenum and makes them show up more clearly on x-rays. The radiologist can also see ulcers, scar tissue, abnormal growths, hernias or areas where something is blocking the normal path of food through the digestive system. Using a machine called a fluoroscope, the radiologist is also able to watch your digestive system work as the barium moves through it. This part of the procedure shows any problems in how the digestive system functions, for example, whether the muscles that control swallowing are working properly. As the barium moves into the small intestine, the radiologist can take x-rays of it as well.

An upper GI series is not uncomfortable. The barium may cause constipation and white-colored stool for a few days after the procedure.

Patient Instructions

  1. The stomach must be empty of food or fluid. Take nothing by mouth after midnight the evening before the examination until it is completed. (Infants may be fed up to four hours before the examination, then should take nothing until the examination is finished.) Do not drink water when brushing your teeth. Do not chew gum or smoke the morning of the examination.
  2. Necessary medication may be taken with a small amount of water.

The barium may be constipating, but should pass without difficulty. Drink plenty of fluids after the examination. If constipation is a recurring problem, you may wish to take a mild laxative of your choice, such as milk of Magnesia.

Plan to spend approximately 30 minutes to one hour in the Department of Radiology for a G.I. series. G.I. or Small Bowel Series will take one and a half to five hours (average three hours).