Gastrointestinal Test :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Gastrointestinal Test (Upper GI Series)

An upper GI series is a test that is done to see how the stomach fills and empties into the small bowel (see Picture 1 on page 2).
The test uses an X-ray machine to look for things that are not normal in the upper GI tract.

How to Prepare for the Test

Explain the test to your child in a way he or she can understand. The technologist or nurse will help you.
  • If your child is older than 1 year of age, he should not eat or drink for 8 hours before the test.
  • A child younger than 1 year should not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test.
  • If there is a special cup your toddler uses, please bring it with you.

How the Test Is Done

Picture 1: The gastrointestinal system inside the body.

If your child is over 10 months of age, the child will be given a chocolate or strawberry flavored drink called barium (BEAR-ee-um). It will not be flavored if your child is less than 10 months of age. Barium makes the stomach and intestines show up on the X-rays.
  • Your child will lie flat on the X-ray table and must hold very still (Picture 2). The Radiologist will tell your child when to drink and will also help them roll into special positions.
  • While the pictures are being taken, your child will hear the camera click. The camera will not hurt your child.
  • The radiologist (X-ray doctor) will examine your child's stomach and intestines by watching the TV monitor and seeing the way the barium fills the stomach and empties into the small bowel. The technologist then takes pictures on X-ray film.
  • An upper GI series takes about 15 to 20 minutes. If a small bowel follow-through test is also done, it will take 2 to 3 hours. Pictures for the small bowel follow-through will be taken 30 to 45 minutes apart. Your child may play while waiting for X-rays to be taken.
  • You may want to bring some toys or books to help entertain your child.

After the Test

Picture 2: Having an upper GI series.

  • After the X-rays are taken, your child may eat his usual foods.
  • Your child's stools (bowel movements) will be white in color until the barium passes all the way through the bowels.
  • The report of the test will be sent to your child’s doctor. Call the doctor for the results of the test.
If you have any questions about your child’s test, be sure to ask the child’s doctor, nurse or technologist, or call the location where the test was scheduled.
 
 
 
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