Mercy Medical Center North Iowa

Upper GI with Small Bowel

What is an upper gastrointestinal (upper GI) with small bowel exam?
An Upper GI with small bowel is an x-ray exam of the esophagus, stomach, and the small bowel. These organs are difficult to see on x-rays so barium is used to coat the lining of the digestive system. Barium is a thick, white chalky tasting liquid that you will drink.  

Why did the doctor order this exam for me?
Difficulty swallowing, pain in the chest or abdomen, vomiting, indigestion, and diarrhea are some of the common reasons to undergo an upper GI and small bowel exam.  

 What do I need to do to prepare for the exam?
You will be asked to not eat or drink after midnight on the night before the exam.  

What should I expect when I arrive in the hospital?
You will first need to check in and register at the Radiology Registration desk. To access Radiology Registration from the hospital's main entrance, follow the red line on the floor. At time of registration you will be asked to update your personal and insurance information. Once you are registered, you may be given a pager and asked to sit in a waiting area. A technologist will page you and take you to a changing room where you will get dressed for your exam. You will need to put on a hospital gown and robe. The technologist will then take you to the exam room.

 Who will be in the exam room with me?
There will be an x-ray technologist and a Radiologist (a doctor specialized in x-rays) in the room with you. If the patient is a child, a parent or guardian may be in the room as well. There may be a student from the Radiology School assisting the technologist.  

What will I experience during the exam?
The technologist will ask you some questions regarding your medical history and the problems that you are experiencing. The technologist will explain the exam to you and make sure all your questions are answered. At the beginning of the exam, you will be standing on a platform. You will be given a small glass of fizzy water to drink. This will make your stomach feel distended. Then you will be given a glass of barium to drink, which can be flavored as chocolate or strawberry with sugar-free options available. Barium is gluten and iodine free.

While you are drinking the barium, the radiologist will be watching with the x-ray machine and taking x-rays. You also will lay down on the x-ray table for part of the exam. You may be asked to drink some more barium through a straw while lying down. After the Radiologist is finished with his/her part of the exam, the technologist may take a series of x-rays. When those x-rays are completed, you will be asked to drink another glass of barium. This is to coat the lining of the small bowel. After about 20 minutes, the technologist will take an x-ray of your abdomen to determine how far the barium has made its way through your system. You will have an x-ray every 20 minutes until the barium has reached the end of the small bowel. The amount of time to complete this phase of the exam varies. Some people may be done within the first 20 minutes, while others need to wait much longer. As soon as the barium has reached the end of the small bowel, the Radiologist will return to the room to take a few more x-rays.

What do I need to do after the exam?
Following the exam, you will be able to resume normal eating and drinking and return to normal activities. You are encouraged to drink plenty of liquids for 2-3 days after your exam. This is to help work the barium through your system. You may notice that your stools will be white for several days until the barium passes. This is normal. If you should experience any problems with constipation, a mild laxative may be taken.  

When will I get the results of the exam?
The results will be available at your doctor's office within 2 - 3 days. Some doctors will schedule an appointment to give you results.  If you do not have an appointment, please call your doctor's office for your results. If you have any problems receiving your results, you can call Mercy Imaging Department for assistance.