Upper GI Series (Barium Swallow)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Upper GI series facts

  • An upper gastrointestinal series is an x-ray test used to define the anatomy of the upper digestive tract.
  • Women who are or may be pregnant should notify the doctor requesting the procedure and the radiology staff.
  • An upper gastrointestinal series involves filling the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines with a white liquid material (barium).

What is an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series?

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) series (barium swallow), is a radiological test that is used to visualize the structures of the upper digestive system - the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. (If visualization of the remaining parts of the small intestine is necessary, a small bowel series can be added to the test.) These structures are observed during the examination, and the images are also are saved for further review on X-ray film or as digital images. An upper GI series can reveal conditions such as ulcers, tumors, hiatal hernias, scarring, blockages, and abnormalities of the muscular wall of the gastrointestinal tissues.

What are the risks of an upper GI series?

Any x-ray test procedure involves some risk from radiation exposure. The radiation exposure is minimized by standard techniques that have been assigned and approved by national and international radiology committees and councils. Radiology technicians are certified by national certifying boards.

Patients who are or may be pregnant should notify the requesting practitioner and radiology staff, as there is potential risk of harm to the fetus with any radiation exposure.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2015

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