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Barium Swallow (Upper Gastrointestinal Series or Upper GI Series)

December 06, 2019

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.

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