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Upper gastrointestinal series

Your child is scheduled for an upper gastrointestinal series (UGI) at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.


Test time:

Check-in time:

___ Children's - Minneapolis
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

___ Children's - St. Paul
345 North Smith Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

___ Children's West
6050 Clearwater Drive
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55343

Please bring a list of your child's medicines and your insurance card with you. If you have questions about your insurance coverage for these services, or any special referral requirements, please contact your insurance company directly. They will advise you about your plan's coverage.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany children younger than 18 years old.

What is a UGI?

This test looks at how the upper gastrointestinal system (upper digestive system) is working. The upper gastrointestinal system includes the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (where food is digested and partially absorbed).

Parts of the upper digestive system

How is the test done?

A technologist will take you and your child into an exam room and explain the test to you both. There will be an imaging bed and a large camera connected to a monitor. Your child will be asked to put on a hospital gown and lie on the imaging bed. You may stand by your child's head to provide support and distraction. An X-ray may be taken of your child's abdomen (belly).

A radiologist will give your child a liquid called barium in a bottle, a cup, or through a small feeding tube. The barium may be flavored (chocolate or strawberry) to make it easier for your child to drink. Barium is a contrast material that makes it possible for the X-ray camera to take images (pictures) of what it looks like inside the digestive tract.

To get a better view, the radiologist may push gently on your child's abdomen, or ask your child to change positions. The radiologist may also ask your child to think of a 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 hold still while the images are taken.

A radiologist will check to see if more images are needed before you leave, and will send a report to your child's doctor.

Can I be with my child during the test?

If not pregnant, you are welcome to stay with your child. You will be given a lead apron to wear. The test will take about 15 to 30 minutes. If the small intestine is examined, it will take 1 to 4 hours more.

What should we do before the test?

Your child's stomach must be empty—nothing to eat or drink, including water, before the test. A Children's staff member or your child's doctor will tell you how long your child must not eat or drink anything.

If your child needs any prescribed medicines within 2 hours of your appointment, give them with a few sips of water only, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.

Read and discuss this information with your child. Answer as many questions as you can.

To learn more about preparing and helping your child cope with this test, call the child life department. Child life specialists are trained to help children understand and cope with medical procedures and can offer advice on how to talk with and support your children. There is no charge for child life.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6259
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6465
Children's - West: 952-930-8773

How should I prepare my child?

Children are usually less afraid and feel more successful when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. You know your child best. The amount of detail you give will depend on your child's age and developmental level, reactions to previous health care experiences, and degree of anxiety about this test. Talking about it can help your child be more comfortable with the test, which will make the procedure easier for both of you.

Most children benefit when you use simple words to explain:

  • why the test is needed. For example, describe the child's symptoms, such as vomiting, or a burning feeling in the chest. Explain that the test will help find out more about what's causing the problem.
  • what parts of the body will be involved (use the words familiar to your child).
  • what your child might see, hear, and feel—for example, the camera, drinking the barium (like milk, but thicker), the doctor pushing on child's belly.
  • that it is okay for staff to touch your child's body for this test.
  • where parents or other significant care providers will be during the test: "I/we will be with you the whole time" or "We will be waiting in a room nearby until the scan is finished."
  • that questions are welcome at any time.

For many children, a big concern is whether or not the test will hurt. Assure them that although there may be some discomfort, it will only last a few moments. Remind them that the test is important because it helps to find out how their body is working on the inside.

How can I support my child during this test?

Before the appointment, you and your child can:

  • Practice lying down and being "as still as a statue."
  • Practice relaxing. Imagine being in a favorite place or doing a favorite activity.
  • Pack comfort items, such as a stuffed toy or blanket, some familiar books or quiet toys, a pacifier for very young children. Older children and teens may want to bring an iPod® or a hand-held video game.
  • Talk about how much your child wants to know about the test while it's happening. Some children want to be told each step in advance and also while it's happening. Others do not want all the detail; they simply want to be distracted and supported. Be sure to share your child's wishes with the staff once you are here.

During the test

Research is clear that during stressful times, parents are most helpful to their children when they offer distraction, rather than apologies.

  • Praise your child often during the test. Be specific to behaviors, such as "You're holding still. Good for you!" or "You're doing just what we asked you to do!"
  • Talk about familiar, positive things – what your child likes, places you've enjoyed, activities you're planning as a family, fun times you've had, successes.
  • Imagine the places, things, or people you're talking about and describe them, or have your child describe them to you. Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation rather than those that require just a yes or no answer. For example, "Tell me what you'd like to do when we go to the pool" works better than, "We're going to have a great time when we go swimming, aren't we?"
  • Sing songs together. Play games that require thinking, such as spelling words or adding and subtracting out loud. Ask young children such things as which animals live on a farm or in the zoo and the sounds they make, or to name all the people in their family or class, and so on.
  • Read the books you brought, hold a toy so your child can see and play with it, play "Can you guess?" and give clues about people and pets you know, things you see in the room.

What can we expect after the test?

After the exam, your child may have an upset stomach. This is normal. Encourage plenty of liquids and normal activity. This is important to prevent constipation and to help pass the barium. See the education sheet, "Barium exam: Care at home."

You will receive the results from the doctor who ordered the test.

What else do we need to know?

On the day before the test, you may pre-register online at Please do this before 3 p.m. If you prefer, you can call the admitting office.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6231
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6878
Children's West: 952-930-8600

Pregnant women cannot be in the exam room during the test. A family member or friend, age 18 or older, may stay with your child. Siblings may not be in the room during the test. Please have an adult stay with them in the waiting room, or sign them into the Sibling Play Area (if 2 years or older). Call to ask about hours:

Children's - Minneapolis, 2nd floor
Children's - St. Paul, 1st floor

Plan to allow extra time before the appointment, to check your children into the Sibling Play Area.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have questions or need more information about the test, call the radiology department at the site checked at the beginning of this sheet.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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