A UGI is a video X-ray of the upper gastrointestinal tract: the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first few inches of the small intestine). In children, we perform a UGI to evaluate the anatomical position of the stomach and duodenum and to assess the esophagus. Common reasons to need a UGI include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Your child will need to drink a thick, white fluid called barium during the study. The barium can be flavored with chocolate or strawberry syrup.

What to Expect

First, your child must be prepared for a UGI. Here are the instructions by age:

  • 0 to 4 weeks: Nothing by mouth for two hours before exam
  • 1 to 12 months: Nothing by mouth for three hours before exam
  • 1 year and up: Nothing by mouth for four hours before exam

A UGI takes place in a private radiology exam room and lasts about 20-30 minutes. Your participation has great impact on the success of the exam and we encourage you to be in the room to support your child. During the exam we encourage you to help your child stay calm and relaxed by holding his or her hand and talking.

The exam does involve the use of radiation, so women who are pregnant or believe they might be pregnant are not allowed in the exam room. In this case, we strongly encourage you to invite another trusted caregiver to help support your child during the exam. Siblings and anyone under the age of 18 are not allowed in the exam room. Two parents or caregivers are able to stay with your child during the exam.

Step by step, here is the process of your child’s UGI:

  • Your child will need to change into a hospital gown.
  • Your child will need lie on the X-ray table. A radiologist, radiologist assistant, or advanced fluoroscopy technologist will move the X-ray machine over your child.
  • Your child will be asked to lie in various positions while they drink the barium. The barium will allow the Upper GI tract to be seen on the X-rays.
  • X-rays will be taken until the stomach begins to empty into the first portion of the small intestine. A technologist will assist your child in moving on the table during the exam.

After the exam is complete, encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to help push the barium through his or her GI tract. Fluids are especially important if your child has chronic constipation. You should expect your child to have white or lightly colored bowel movements for a day or two after the exam.