Radiology

Upper GI Series

Please be sure to read our general information about fluoroscopy before exploring the details about this procedure..

Upper GI
Upper GI
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What is an upper GI series?

What should you do prior to your child's exam?

What should you do when you arrive?

What should you expect during the exam?

What should you do after the exam?

Test results

What is an upper GI series?

An upper GI (gastrointestinal) series is a procedure that evaluates your child's esophagus, stomach, and a portion of the small intestine. It may be performed to evaluate the size and shape of the organs in the gastrointestinal tract, or digestive disorders.

The exam is obtained by the use of fluoroscopy and a contrast agent taken by mouth.

What should you do prior to the exam?

The upper GI series must be done on an empty stomach. This means that your child cannot have anything to eat or drink by mouth or tube before the exam, for a period of time depending on their age. The times are as follows:

If your child has a noted allergy to radiographic contrast, additional preparations may be necessary.

Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed. Your child will be given a gown to change into for the procedure.

You may want to bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the exam.

Note: Parents will be allowed to accompany the child into the exam room, other arrangements should be made for siblings.

Women who are pregnant or may be pregnant will be asked to leave the exam room during the procedure. Please make sure that there is someone else available to accompany the child during the exam, if needed.

What should you do when you arrive for the exam?

If your appointment is scheduled for the Main Hospital:

You must check in to Outpatient Registration, on the third floor of the Main Hospital, 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. This is where your registration process occurs.

The law requires that you bring with you a prescription from your doctor's office stating the exam to be done and the reason for it.

If your insurance requires you to have a referral, it must be presented at the time of registration. Proof of insurance will also need to be provided at this time.

Once the registration process is completed, the Radiology Department will be notified. A radiologic technologist will come out to the central registration area and bring you and your child to the Radiology exam room.

If your appointment is scheduled at the Pediatric Imaging Center at King of Prussia:

You must check in at the main registration desk, located in the main waiting room, 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. This is where your registration process occurs.

The law requires that you bring a prescription from your doctor's office stating the exam to be done and the reason for it.

If your insurance requires a referral, it must be presented at the time of registration. Proof of insurance will also need to be provided at this time.

Once the registration process is completed, you will be directed to the Radiology waiting room. The Fluoroscopy Technologist will be notified and will come out and bring you and your child to the Radiology exam room.

What should you expect during the exam?

The technologist will ask why the upper GI is being performed and explain the procedure to both you and your child. Your child will need to drink a barium shake, which will make the stomach and intestines visible on the x-ray screen. This shake has a natural strawberry flavor to it, and can also be mixed with chocolate syrup if your child prefers. (Please tell us if your child has an allergy to chocolate.)

X-rays will be taken while your child is swallowing the barium, and as the barium flows through the stomach and portion of the small intestine. The radiologist does this by using the fluoroscopy machine, or camera, to follow the barium where it goes. Your child will need to move around in different positions in order to see the correct anatomy. The radiologist and technologist will help guide your child. This exam takes an average of 30 minutes from start to finish.

Child Life Specialists are available to answer questions you might have about how to prepare and support your child during the procedure. A child life specialist can also be present at the time of your child's appointment to explain the procedure in developmentally appropriate ways using well established preparation materials. The specialist can also be available to help implement distraction techniques to help your child better cope with the stress of the hospital experience. Please call 215-590-2001 or click the link above for more information. If your child's procedure is scheduled for the Pediatric Imaging Center at King of Prussia, you can call the Child Life Specialist directly at 215-590-3069.

What should you do after the exam?

After the study, it is important to mildly increase your child's fluid intake for the day, because the barium may cause constipation.

If there are any problems or questions about constipation please call your Primary Care Physician.

When your child does have a bowel movement, it may appear white or grayish — do not be alarmed! The barium may cause this discoloration. The barium has no nutritional value.

Test results

The images from your child's exam are interpreted on the same day and a report sent to your physician's office.

If your physician has any questions regarding the report, he/she may call 215-590-2584.

Here is an example of what your child's exam may look like.

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