What are the Risks Associated with Upper GI Series?

Updated at: Jul 25, 2014
What are the Risks Associated with Upper GI Series?

Possible risks of an upper GI series include mild constipation, bowel obstruction, an allergic reaction to barium, and cell and tissue damage from radiation exposure.

Vasudha Bhat
Other DiseasesWritten by: Vasudha BhatPublished at: Jul 25, 2014

What is Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI) Series?

An examination that checks the upper and middle section of the gastrointestinal tract is known as upper gastrointestinal series. Barium contrast material, fluoroscopy, and x-rays are used in the test.

Before the test, a person is made to drink a mix of barium and water. This helps the doctor to examine the movement of barium through esophagus, stomach, and the first part of small intestines on a video screen. Some x-rays are also taken from different angles.

At times, right after the UGI a small bowel follow-through is done to have a look at the rest of the small intestine. When only the throat and esophagus are examined, it is known as esophagram.

Upper Gastrointestinal Series Risks

What are the Risks Associated with UGI Series?

Allergic reactions due to the examination take place rarely as barium never gets into the blood.
In rare cases, people may choke or inhale some of the barium liquid into the lungs.

There is a little chance that there would be a blockage in the intestine due to barium or barium would leak into the belly through a perforated ulcer. If a blockage or an ulcer occurs, a special type of contrast material can be used.

Damage to the cells also takes place in very rare conditions. There are very slim chances of tissues being exposed to any radiation.

Upper Gastrointestinal Series Risks

Why is it Done?

An upper GI series is performed to do the following:

  • To find the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms like trouble swallowing, vomiting, burping up food, pain in belly, or indigestion.
  • It is also done to find narrow spots in the upper intestinal tract, ulcers, tumours, polyps, or pyloric stenosis.
  • Also to find inflamed areas in the intestines, malabsorption syndrome, or problems with the squeezing motion.
  • To find swallowed objects.

Image courtesy: Getty Images

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