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What is the process for an upper GI series?

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Quick Answer

A standard barium upper gastrointestinal series involves swallowing a barium drink while taking simultaneous X-rays of the upper gastrointestinal tract, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. A double-contrast upper gastrointestinal series involves swallowing a gas-producing substance in addition to the barium drink.

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Full Answer

A patient begins the procedure by removing objects that may interfere with the procedure such as clothing and jewelry, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. He is then positioned on an adjustable, tilted X-ray table. The patient may need to change positions during the procedure at the discretion of the radiologist.

Standard X-rays of the heart, lung and abdomen are first taken, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Following this, the patient takes small, repeated swallows of a barium drink. The patient has to drink approximately 240 to 600 milliliters of the barium drink, according to WebMD.

In the case of a double-contrast upper gastrointestinal series, the patient swallows a gas-producing powder, tablet or carbonated beverage in addition to barium, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This combination of gas and barium enables an enhanced visualization of the gastrointestinal tract.

While the patient swallows the drink, the radiologist records a series of still or moving images observing the movement of the contrast drink, according to WebMD. The radiologist may ask the patient to cough or may apply pressure on the patient's abdomen to enable more thorough imaging of the stomach. The total time taken for the process is usually two to five hours. It is an outpatient procedure, and the patient is not required to stay overnight in the hospital.

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