Reasons, Procedure & Preparation Required For Upper Gastrointestinal Series

Submitted on March 27, 2012

UGI (Upper Gastrointestinal) Series

Upper gastrointestinal UGI series or upper gastrointestinal GI series examines the upper and middle portions of the gastrointestinal tract. These series make use of a special x-ray and orally ingested contrast material such as barium to determine the nature of problems affecting organs such as the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum – the part of the small intestine that lies between the stomach and the jejunum. The x-ray also known as a fluoroscopy allows the doctor to view the internal organs as they are functioning, making it easier to detect any abnormalities.

Reason Why It is Conducted

The upper gastrointestinal UGI series are used to determine any abnormal growths, intestinal blockages, peptic ulcers, or other problems with gastrointestinal organs and their functioning. It is also used to diagnose symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing, persistent chest and abdominal pain, reflux of partially digested food or digestive juices, vomiting, severe indigestion, and blood in the stools.


The patient will be asked to drink a mix of barium and water. This mixture is thick and white, having the consistency of a milkshake. Sometimes people may find it difficult to swallow the barium and so a flavor like chocolate or strawberry might be added to make the drink palatable. The barium coats the lining of the upper gastrointestinal organs such as, the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This makes them appear clearly on x-rays. The lab technician uses a fluoroscope to examine your digestive system by seeing how the barium moves inside it. During this part of the procedure, any abnormal functioning can be detected.

This test normally takes around two hours to complete. However, x-rays of the small intestines can prolong the test to five hours. Barium is not absorbed by the blood, therefore, allergic reactions are uncommon. For the next two to three days after the test the patient may suffer from constipation and white-colored stools. In some cases, a bowel follow-through might be conducted immediately following a UGI to observe the rest of the small intestine.


The upper gastrointestinal GI series procedure requires that your stomach and small intestines be completely empty. You should therefore not eat anything for 8 hours before the test. You can consult your doctor regarding any medications that you are currently taking and whether you can take them before the test. Also inform you doctor about any allergies, especially to barium, and any recent illnesses or medical conditions.