Gastrointestinal GI Exam

What are gastrointestinal examinations?

X-ray examinations of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and rectum) enable your physician to find problems in these organs.

Gastrointestinal examinations are usually called either "upper GI" or "lower GI," depending on the organs that are to be studied:

  • The upper GI test examines the esophagus, stomach, and part of the small intestine. For this test, the patient swallows a contrast solution that contains barium (a chalky substance that makes it easier to see the organs on the x-ray).
  • The lower GI test examines the large intestine and the rectum. For this test, barium is delivered into the rectum by enema.
Before the exam

Please be aware that correct preparation is very important for the test to be performed properly. Your test may need to be rescheduled for another day if you do not complete the correct preparation.

On the day of the exam

Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards.

  • All examinations are performed and interpreted by registered and licensed technologists and board-certified radiologists.
  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown.
Types of exams
  • Air contrast enema
    X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon). Barium and air are introduced gradually into the colon by a rectal tube. Approximate time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Barium enema
    X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon). Barium is introduced gradually into the colon by a rectal tube. Approximate time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Barium swallow (esophagography)
    X-ray examination of the esophagus as you swallow a barium solution. Approximate time: 1 hour.
  • Small bowel series
    X-ray examination of the small intestine (small bowel). You drink a barium solution and x-ray films are taken at intervals to follow the flow of barium through the small intestine. Approximate time: 2 to 4 hours.
  • Upper GI series
    X-ray examination of the stomach as you swallow a barium solution. Approximate time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
After the exam

You can usually resume your usual activities and normal diet right away. However, you are encouraged to drink more fluids.

The results of your gastrointestinal exam should be available to your physician within 24 hours after the test, Monday through Friday.

Your physician will discuss the test results with you.

References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/14/2017...#4986