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Upper GI Series

The Imaging Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital provides advanced imaging services to obtain the safest and highest quality images for your child. Caring for children of all ages, from fetal life to young adulthood, our team combines specialty expertise with a focus on each child’s individual needs to ensure the most accurate diagnostics.

An Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series is a fluoroscopy procedure that allows doctors to see images of your child's esophagus, stomach and a portion of the small intestine. We do this by using an x-ray (fluoroscopy) machine and a contrast agent taken by mouth. Upper GI series are typically performed to diagnose digestive disorders or to evaluate the size and shape of the organs in the gastrointestinal tract.

What Should I do Prior to the Exam?

Your child will need an empty stomach for the upper GI series.  The following are specific instructions for this exam:

  • For newborns to 3 years old - no food or drink for four hours before the exam.
  • For children 3 years and older - no food or drink for eight hours before the exam.
  • It’s important for your child not to eat before this exam. Food in the stomach will result in poor quality images.
  • Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed. If needed, we’ll give your child a gown to change into for the procedure.
  • You may want to bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the exam.

Parents will be able to accompany their child into the exam room, however other arrangements should be made for siblings.

Women who are pregnant or may be pregnant will be asked to leave the exam room during the procedure to ensure their safety.

What should I Expect During the Exam?

This exam takes an average of 30 minutes from start to finish.

  • Your child will drink a barium shake, which will make their stomach and intestines visible on the x-ray screen. We can customize the shake to change the flavor and if your child has allergies.
  • Our radiologist will then use the fluoroscopy machine to take x-rays while your child is swallowing the barium and as the barium flows through their stomach and into a portion of their small intestine.
  • Your child will need to move around in different positions so the machine can take pictures of your child’s body in various positions. The radiologist and technologist will help guide your child.

One of our Child Life Specialists will be available to help you prepare your child and support them during the procedure. We ask that patients and family members to not use their cell phones in the exam room to limit any distractions.

What Should I Do After the Exam?

It’s important to give your child lots of fluids after the exam because the barium may cause constipation. When your child does have a bowel movement, it may appear white or grayish—do not be alarmed.  The barium can cause this discoloration. It has no nutritional value so it simply passes through your child’s digestive system.

Test Results

Our SLUCare Physician Group radiologists will review the results of the exam, interpret any findings, and send the results to your child’s doctor. From here, your child’s doctor will also review the findings and talk to you about the next step in your child’s medical care.

At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, we look forward to caring for your child. With an experienced staff and state-of-the-art imaging technology, you can count on us to deliver the excellent care your child needs. To schedule your appointment today, please call 314-577-5652.

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