Overview of Upper GI Series
Once the mainstay of radiology, the upper GI (UGI) series has lost considerable ground in the past few decades to other imaging tests, such as ultrasound and CT scan. The upper GI series provides the single best way to study the upper gastrointestinal tract. The test is noninvasive, easy to tolerate, and sensitive enough to detect important pathology.
Using a UGI, the radiologist can evaluate the swallowing mechanism, check the rest of the esophageal tube for inflammation or obstruction, and study that very sensitive gastroesophageal (GE) junction. The radiologist also studies the stomach and duodenum, while looking for ulcers, tumors, and signs of inflammation. Sometimes the upper GI series is extended to include the entire small bowel, in what is known as a small bowel series.
Often the UGI series can be abbreviated to focus on the esophagus and the gastroesophageal junction and not only the other structures in the upper gastrointestinal tract. This shortened study is called a "barium swallow" or "esophagram."
A decent alternative to the upper GI series is endoscopy. Many gastroenterologists feel that upper endoscopy is more reliable than the upper GI series and they prefer that test. Also, gastroenterologists are able to biopsy suspicious-
Upper GI Risks and Potential Complications
The upper GI series receives very high grades here. The contrast agent barium is inert and is associated with only very rare complications. Occasionally, the barium gets impacted in the large bowel, requiring treatment for constipation. Drinking liquids after the test will significantly diminish the risk for impaction.