Why Did My Doctor Order An Upper GI Series?

An upper GI series is a test that is used to diagnose digestive tract problems. It involves taking X-rays of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine, which can detect conditions such as ulcers or cancer. 

This article will discuss what an upper GI series entails and what it can be used for. We will also cover five specific cases where a doctor may have ordered an upper GI to help diagnose what’s going on!

First, What Is An Upper Gi Series? 

The name “upper” refers to the fact that it uses a view of your stomach and duodenum, which are above the pylorus. These areas include most of what you think of as being in your upper digestive tract – from just below your teeth at the top, down past your pyloric valve and into the duodenum. During an upper GI, what is visualized includes both of these sections and part of the small intestine. 

What Happens During An Upper GI Series?

Before the test, you will be instructed not to eat for a certain amount of time. Furthermore, to avoid being affected by the test’s outcome, you should not take certain medications, including antacids, narcotics, and anticholinergics.

You’ll receive a drink that is thick like a milkshake when you arrive. It contains barium, which shows up when X-rayed. If you are unsure whether you are allergic to radiologic contrast materials, consult your physician.

During the process, your imaging technologist will take several images of you. The images will display the movement of the barium through your digestive tract.

The test lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours. In this process, you may be asked either to sit or stand while X-rays are being taken. It is important to hold your breath and remain as still as possible during the X-ray.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in fiber after the test. The barium will move through your system as a result. Following the barium procedure, your stool can appear lighter for up to 72 hours. You may resume eating normally following the test unless your doctor instructs otherwise.

What Can an Upper GI Series Detect 

Many different conditions can be diagnosed using an upper GI, but let’s go over five of the most common. 


In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach acid constantly travels back into the tube connecting your stomach and mouth (esophagus). Your esophagus may be irritated by this backwash (acid reflux).

It is common for people to suffer from acid reflux from time to time. It is GERD if mild acid reflux occurs at least twice a week or moderate to severe acid reflux occurring at least once a week.

Esophageal Cancer

In esophageal cancer, cancer cells develop in the tube-like esophagus, which connects your throat with your stomach. Esophageal cancer begins at its innermost layer and spreads to the outer layers and other parts of the body (metastasis).

Men are more likely than women to suffer from esophageal cancers. Smoking, drinking, or being overweight are all associated with most of these cancers.

Esophageal Varices 

Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the tube that connects the throat to the stomach (the esophagus). Often, they result from blocked blood flow through the portal vein, which funnels blood from the intestines, pancreas, and spleen into the liver. 

Esophageal varices are most commonly caused by scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver. Blood is cut off from the liver by this scarring. Thus, more blood flows through the veins of the esophagus. Veins in the esophagus balloon outward as a result of the extra blood flow.


Duodenitis is a condition that occurs as a result of inflammation of the duodenum lining. Sometimes, it is combined with gastritis, an inflammation of your stomach lining. Combined, these symptoms are known as gastroduodenitis.

The symptoms of gastritis and duodenitis can be uncomfortable and challenging to manage. There are rarely serious or long-term complications associated with either condition, and they are generally treatable easily.

Barrett’s Esophagus

In Barrett’s esophagus, your esophagus cells resemble those in your intestines. A common cause is exposure to stomach acid, which damages cells. Many people suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) for years before developing this condition.

Barrett’s esophagus does not have a cure. By keeping acid reflux away from your esophagus, you can prevent any more damage.

Upper GI Series in Manhattan 

If you are ordered an upper GI series by your doctor, or any other diagnostic imaging center, we are here to help. Rosetta Radiology is fully accredited by The American College of Radiology, ensuring the highest quality of radiology services in Manhattan.