When your child is scheduled for a radiology test, both you and your child may have questions about it. We encourage parents to read this information, then talk about the test with their child.

What is an upper gastrointestinal series?

An upper gastrointestinal series (UGI) is a test that examines how the upper digestive system functions. The upper gastrointestinal system includes the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, and the small intestine (where food is digested and partially absorbed).

How is the test performed?

A technologist will take you and your child into an exam room. You will see a large table and camera connected to a television screen. If not pregnant, you may stay with your child during the exam.

The technologist will ask your child to put on a hospital gown and lie on the table. An initial X-ray may be taken of your child's stomach area. A radiologist will give your child barium in a bottle, a cup, or through a feeding tube. Barium is a liquid, which makes it possible to view the intestinal tract. The barium is flavored to make it easier for your child to drink.

The radiologist may gently push on your child's abdomen or move him into various positions to make the different parts of the intestinal tract more visible. The radiologist may also ask your child to think of her favorite food in order to stimulate stomach activity.

Several X-rays will be taken from different angles as the barium moves through the digestive system. It is important for your child to remain still while the images are being taken.

The radiologist will check the images to make sure they are complete before you leave the facility. A report will be sent to your child's doctor.

How do I tell my child about this test?

Because you know your child best, explain this test to your child in a way that he will understand before you come to Children's. The staff also will explain the procedure to you and your child before and during the test.

Will it hurt?

For many children, the most important thing to know is whether or not this test will hurt. Assure your child that although there may be some discomfort, it will only last a few minutes. Remind your child that this test is being done to help the doctor find out how her body is working inside. By talking about the test with your child, you may help her be more comfortable during the test, which will make the procedure easier for your child and you.

Does my child have to do anything

different before the test?

Your child's stomach must be empty for the test. She should not eat or drink anything, including water, for a number of hours before the test, depending on her age. A Children's staff member or your child's doctor will tell you how long your child must not eat or drink anything.

After the test, you should encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. The test itself usually takes from 45 to 60 minutes. If your child's small bowel is also being examined, an additional 1 to 3 hours may be necessary.

Children under 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

What can my child expect after the test?

After the exam, your child might experience nausea or vomiting and have white–looking stools. This is normal. Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids and resume normal activity.

General radiology requirements

  • Pregnant mothers: Women who are pregnant can't be in the exam room. They must have a family member or friend over the age of 18 accompany their child into the examination room during the exam (with the exception of the ultrasound and nuclear medicine rooms).
  • Family or friends under the age of 18 years old: If you are not the patient and under the age of 18 years old you will not be allowed to remain in the radiology exam room during the exam.
  • Siblings: Siblings are not allowed in the radiology room while the exam is being performed (with the exception of the ultrasound rooms). Please make arrangements to have an adult accompany them in the waiting room.
  • Attire: Children wearing clothing with snaps or buttons will need to change into hospital attire. Any item such as jewelry, undergarments with metal, or EKG patches in affected area will be removed prior to the exam.