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Upper GI Series

  • An upper GI series (gastrointestinal series) uses a special x-ray technology called fluoroscopy and a contrast agent called barium to show the structure of your child's esophagus, stomach and small intestine.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches an upper GI series

    Performing an upper GI series test in children poses unique challenges. The Division of Diagnostic Radiology provides a soothing, kid-friendly environment with:

    • pediatric radiologists who have extensive experience and training
    • technologists with years of experience in imaging children and teens
    • skilled staff who use age-appropriate distraction techniques to help comfort patients prior to and during the study
    • equipment designed specifically for pediatric use, which means age-appropriate care for children
    • protocols adapted to keep radiation exposure as low as reasonably achievable without compromising the image quality.

    Contact Us

    Diagnostic Radiology
    Boston Children's Hospital

    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115 

    fax: 617-730-0550

  • What is an upper GI series?

    An upper GI series is a group of X-rays taken of the upper part of the digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine.

    What is an upper GI with small bowel series?

    An upper GI with small bowel series is an upper GI with additional imaging of the entire small bowel taken over a period of time.

    During both an upper GI and upper GI with small bowel series, your child will drink barium, which will fill and coat her GI tract. Barium is a milky-white contrast liquid that shows up on x-ray and allows the radiologist to see parts of the body clearly. It is an effective and safe contrast agent for infants and children.

    Aspecial type of x-ray technology, called fluoroscopy, is used to take pictures once the barium is in the intestine.

    Why might an upper GI series be needed?

    An upper GI series allows the radiologist to accurately diagnose many illnesses that affect the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. Some reasons for an upper GI series include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract
    • Persistent vomiting
    • Poor weight gain

    How should I prepare my child for an upper GI series?

    It is helpful to:

    • Give your child a simple explanation as to why an upper GI series is needed.
    • Assure your child that you will be there for the entire time. If you are pregnant, you will not be able to be with your child when x-rays are taken. Bring another family member or friend to stay with your child.
    • Bring your child's favorite book, toy or comforting object to occupy to use during waiting times.

    An upper GI series requires that your child not eat or drink for a period of time prior to the study.You will be given specific instructions when you make your child's appointment, but can use the following table as a guideline:

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