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Upper GI - UGI (Upper Gastrointestinal)

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What is a UGI?

UGI is a common x-ray procedure used to see the airway, esophagus, stomach and part of the small intestine. The UGI can help identify and locate the reason for heartburn, spitting up, abdominal pain or discomfort.

What do we do to prepare for an UGI (Upper Gastrointestinal)?

The preparation for the UGI depends upon the age of the child:

  • Newborn to 6 months - nothing by mouth 4 hours before exam time
  • Children 6- 12 months – nothing by mouth 6 hours before exam time
  • Children over 12 months - nothing by mouth 8 hours before exam time

Who does the test?

A radiology technologist will assist the radiologist performing the procedure. The radiologist is a physician trained to perform and read x-rays.

How is the test performed?

Your child will be given a barium “shake" to drink. It looks like a milkshake and can be flavored with juice. The barium will allow the radiologist to see your child’s stomach and small intestine on the monitor. Your child will be asked to drink the barium while the radiologist watches on the monitor. While your child is drinking, the technologist will position them on their side, back or stomach to help the radiologist see the entire stomach area. After the stomach is full of the barium, the radiologist will watch on the monitor as the stomach empties into the small intestine.

How long does this test take?

The UGI usually takes 20-30 minutes.

How should I prepare my child?

Infants: You can help your baby feel more secure during the test by bringing a special blanket, toy or pacifier. Please bring a bottle of juice or formula to feed your baby when the test is done.

Toddlers and preschool-age children: Young children remember things for only a short time, so the best time to talk about the test is right before you are ready to come to the hospital. Tell your child that you are going to the hospital to have some “pictures" taken that the doctor needs to help him/her get better. Try to use simple words. It is important to be honest with your child. Tell him/her nothing will hurt. Because children at this age are afraid of being separated from their parent, let him/her know that mom or dad will stay with him/her as much as possible. When you come to the hospital, bring a favorite book, toy or blanket. You may also bring a snack for after the test.

School-age children: School-age children have good imaginations. If you don't tell them the truth, they may imagine something much worse than the actual test. The day of the test, tell your child that he/she will be going to the hospital to have some pictures taken of the inside of his/her body. Tell him/her the pictures will help the doctor decide how to make him/her better. Use simple words, and be honest. Try to tell your child exactly what will happen. Tell him/her it is a painless test. Nothing will hurt. When you come to the hospital, bring favorite books, toys or a game. If you wish, you may bring a snack for after the test.

Who looks at the pictures?

The radiologist will view all of the pictures and then talk to your child's doctor.

What happens after the test?

The technologist will give you the instructions you need and tell you when you may leave.

Who will give me the results?

The doctor who asked for the test will call you with the results within a few days. Please call your doctor's office if you have not heard anything after a few days.

Please call your child's doctor or the Radiology Department (668-7250) if you have any questions or concerns.

Your child's exam was performed by: _____________________________________


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 08/2009

(757) 668-7000