Barium Swallow (Upper Gastrointestinal Series or "Upper GI Series")

What is the test?

A barium swallow, or upper GI series, is an x-ray test used to examine the upper digestive tract (the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine). Because these organs are normally not visible on x-rays, you need to swallow barium, a liquid that does show up on x-rays. The barium temporarily coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, making the outline of these organs visible on the x-ray pictures. This test is useful for diagnosing cancers, ulcers, problems that cause narrowing of the esophagus, some causes of inflammation in the intestine, and some swallowing problems.

How do I prepare for the test?

Tell your doctor and the x-ray technicians if there is any chance you could be pregnant. If you have diabetes and take insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test.

Stop eating and drinking the night before your test. This is important because food in your stomach or intestine could prevent the doctors from seeing a clear outline of these structures on the x-rays. Usually it isn't a problem for you to take your regular pills, but you should check with your doctor.

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