What is an Upper GI Series?

02. 19. 2018

An upper gastrointestinal series (UGI) uses barium contrast material, fluoroscopy and X-rays to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. As X-rays pass through body tissues onto chemically treated plates, a negative-type picture is made.

What Happens During an Upper GI?

Before the test, you will swallow a mixture of barium, water and gas-making crystals. Your gastroenterologist will then watch the movement of the barium through your upper digestive tract on a video screen. Several X-ray pictures will be taken from different views throughout the procedure.

When Do Gastroenterologists Perform Upper GIs?

Your gastroenterologist may order an upper GI to diagnose structural or functional abnormalities in your esophagus, stomach and duodenum such as:
• Inflammation (esophagitis, gastritis, or duodenitis) or infection
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Tumors or polyps — benign or malignant
• Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
• Structural problems, strictures, diverticula
• Ulcers
• Hiatal hernia or upward movement of the stomach into the esophagus
• Chest pain
• Bloody stool
• Unexplained vomiting

What is the Difference Between an Upper GI and an Upper Endoscopy?

An upper GI series uses X-rays and fluoroscopy to examine the digestive tract and is usually performed by a radiologist or a radiology tech. An upper endoscopy, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), uses a camera on a lit scope and is usually performed by a gastroenterologist.

Upper GIs and EGDs are both valuable diagnostic tools, but EGDs can have therapeutic benefits as well. EGD is used to treat conditions like Barrett’s esophagus with radio frequency ablation. Gastroenterologists can pass instruments through the endoscope to treat conditions without causing discomfort, and they can even obtain a tissue sample for biopsy.

Related Articles:

Can GERD Cause Difficulty Swallowing?
What is an Upper Endoscopy and Why Would I Need One?

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