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Upper GI Series (UGI) – Pediatric Imaging Procedure

Patients who suffer from persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract, or poor weight gain might be referred for an upper GI series (UGI). UGI is a type of X-ray procedure in which the patient drinks barium that fills and coats the intestine. Barium is a non-toxic, contrast liquid that highlights organs to be studied. An X-ray is taken with the barium in the patient’s intestines, allowing the radiologist to accurately diagnose many illnesses that affect the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. UGI is limited to the esophagus, stomach, and first portion of the small intestine. The remainder of the small intestine is studied with a separate procedure, small bowel follow-through (SBFT) procedure. In most cases, you are informed of the results immediately after the test.

To prepare for a UGI, a patient may not eat for some time prior to the procedure. Exactly how long depends on the age of the patient. In general, patients should not eat for the length of time that he or she normally waits between meals. Thus newborns should fast for no more than 2 to 3 hours before the study, while infants and young children should not eat for 3 to 4 hours. Specific instructions are given prior to your appointment.

What is an upper GI series, with or without small bowel follow-through?

An upper GI (gastrointestinal) series is a type of X-ray procedure in that the child drinks a substance called barium that fills and coats the intestines, allowing the radiologist to accurately diagnose many illnesses that affect the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. In the upper GI (UGI) series, the study is limited to the esophagus, stomach, and first portion of the small intestine. In a study with small bowel follow-through (SBFT), the remainder of the small intestines is also studied.

When should I get an UGI/SBFT?

Some of the indications for UGI include vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract, and poor weight gain.

How should the patient prepare for the procedure?

The patient may not eat for some time prior to the procedure. Exactly how long depends on the age and weight of the patient. In general, the patient should not eat for the length of time that he or she normally waits between meals. Thus newborns should fast for no more than 2 to 3 hours before the study; infants and young children should not eat for 3 to 4 hours. Exact instructions will be given at the time of the appointment.

What will happen during the procedure?

After arriving at Wake Radiology Pediatric Imaging, one of our pediatric radiology technologists will help your child change into a hospital gown. A preliminary X-ray of the abdomen will be taken and evaluated by the radiologist. The patient will then be given the barium to drink while lying down under the X-ray camera. The radiologist will take pictures while the child drinks. There is really no more to the test than that. In the small bowel follow through, pictures are taken every half hour or so, until the entire intestine has been seen.

How does this technique work? What does the radiologist see?

The barium fills the intestine allowing the radiologist to diagnose many abnormalities that affect the intestine.

Resources: Download Fluoroscopy Barium Enema Overview Brochure

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