GI stands for gastrointestinal, commonly known as the digestive system. An Upper GI is an exam of the upper portion of your digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
Since the stomach and small intestine (bowel) cannot be seen well with just x-rays, an Upper GI with small bowel follow through exam requires the use of a liquid contrast medium. Traditional x-rays can only reproduce images of bone, the liquid contrast is used to show soft tissue in your body like your digestive tract.
During the exam, you will be asked to stand on a small platform. You will need to drink some liquid that will allow the radiologist to see your digestive tract on a special live x-ray called fluoroscopy. Next, the table will be tilted so you will be lying down. You may need to drink more liquid at this time. Your radiologist may need you to shift positions in order to see the stomach from various angles.
After the radiologist is finished with the examination, a technologist will take a series of stomach x-rays. Following the stomach x-rays, you will need to drink another glass of liquid, enough to coat the 22 feet of small bowel. You will need to wait 30 minutes and then have an x-ray to see how far the liquid has traveled. X-rays will be taken every 30 minutes until the entire small bowel has been seen and the liquid has passed into the large bowel. This step generally takes 60 minutes, but can take up to 2 to 3 hours for some. You will be informed of your progress throughout the exam.
Some preparation is needed for the procedure.