X-ray of a normal esophagus taken as part of the Upper GI Series. Note how the barium, seen in the image as white, visualizes the esophagus.

An x-ray of a normal stomach seen through a fluoroscope.

What is GI Radiology?

There are two types of studies that are often used to visualize the gastrointestinal  system: the Upper GI series and the barium enema.

Upper GI Series

The Upper GI series is an x-ray examination of the upper intestinal tract. It visualizes the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine. The procedure may be different for each patient.

On the evening prior to the day of testing, you will need to consume only clear liquid for your evening meal. You may not eat anything after dinner. You may also be given a laxative. You will not be allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the exam.

Before the exam, you will drink a barium solution. The radiologist will watch on a fluoroscope as the barium solution passes through the upper gastrointestinal system. Following the fluoroscopy, there will be a series of x-rays taken of your stomach.

Special instructions for these tests include:

  • Upper GI Series/Small Bowel Series (Stomach): Clear liquid diet on the day prior to examination (no milk products). Drink two ounces of Milk of Magnesia at 2 p.m. the day before the exam. Nothing by mouth after midnight the day of the exam.
  • Enteroclysis or Small Bowel Enema: At 3 p.m. the day prior to the examination take two ounces Milk of Magnesia or four Dulcolax tablets. For lunch and dinner, eat a low residue diet, such as clear soup, beef, or chicken broth. Drink lots of fluids, e.g. eight ounces of water or fruit juice every hour beginning at 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. on the evening before the exam. Nothing by mouth after 6 a.m. the day of the exam.


Barium Enema

The barium enema is an x-ray study of the large intestine. A barium solution, which appears white on an x-ray, is given as an enema. This makes the colon visible on an x-ray.

Start a clear liquid diet at noon the day before your barium enema or air contrast barium enema is scheduled. You may have broth, tea, ginger ale, fruit juice, sherbet, jello, coffee with sugar, but no cream. After the noon meal, take four Dulcolax tablets. Drink eight ounces of water each hour beginning at 1 p.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. Drink one bottle of Magnesium Citrate at 8 p.m. Nothing by mouth after 6 a.m. 

You will be given a fleet enema early the next morning. The barium enema will then be given as the radiologist uses a fluoroscope to watch the barium pass into your intestine.

Following the x-ray, you may have food and fluid, if no additional testing is scheduled.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Computed Tomography


Angiography &
Interventional Radiology

Diagnostic Ultrasound

General Radiology

Nuclear Medicine


GI Radiology


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