Upper Gastrointestinal Series

(Upper GI Series; Barium Swallow; Barium Meal)


This is a series of x-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Together, the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum are called the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or upper digestive system. The x-rays are taken during and after drinking a chemical called barium . The barium solution is a thick, white, chalky, milkshake-like liquid. It coats the inside lining of your GI tract. This makes the GI tract show up better on the x-ray.
Upper Digestive System
Upper GI stomach duodenum
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

An upper GI series may be done if you have:
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Regurgitation—when food and fluids flow back up from your stomach toward your mouth
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody stools or black, tarry stools
  • Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
An upper GI series can help detect:
  • Ulcers
  • Blockage
  • Abnormal growths or tumors
  • Diverticula—abnormal pouches in the wall of your gut
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) —when acid from the stomach moves up into your throat
  • Hiatal hernia—when the upper part of the stomach moves up through a small opening in the muscular wall that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity

Possible Complications

Some people may have an allergic reaction to the barium or have difficulty keeping it down.

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