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X-ray of the upper digestive tract

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The upper digestive tract also called the gastrointestinal tract consists of the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine i.e. the duodenum. An x ray or radiography would be conducted in these structures by using barium swallow technique and it might be guided by fluoroscopy as well.

What is the purpose of x ray of the upper digestive tract?

It can diagnose several medical conditions associated with the digestive tract that include:

  • Abdominal pain or bloating, abnormal vomiting, chronic diarrhoea or constipation
  • Bleeding from rectum
  • Difficulty in swallowing, dyspepsia
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Tumours, ulcers, scarring, inflammation in the GI tract
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Esophageal varices
  • Narrowing of upper GI tract

How is x ray of the digestive tract performed?

Barium is a dry and chalky powder that is mixed with water and given to the patient. This allows better quality view of the internal structures of the gastrointestinal tract as it appears white on the X ray. Your radiologist might additionally use air or gas along with barium to get a better contrast of images on the x ray plate. For this, you might be given a fizzy beverage or aerated pills or powder to consume. This is known as double contrast study,

If fluoroscopy is done then you have to stand behind the machine as images will be taken continuously. The x ray images are obtained in the monitor

How to prepare for  x ray of upper digestive tract?

Barium swallow x ray is safe on children as well. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything or smoke 8 hours before the x ray, i.e. after midnight.

Your doctor should know your medical history of your health complication and last when you have undergone x ray or radiology

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning for pregnancy. Your doctor might want to avoid X ray as it not really safe for the baby. However, if it’s an emergency then the procedure will be performed with necessary precautions.

You also need to inform your doctor if you have any kind of allergy towards latex, anaesthesia, or any other substance or if you are taking any medicines or supplements.

You will be asked to take of jewellery, metal, belts or any other accessory that might be present in your body. This is why you will be given a hospital gown to wear before getting the x ray done.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be positioned on the table and regular x ray of your stomach, heart and lung will be taken first.

Then you will be given a specific quantity of barium drink to swallow. It may be flavoured but doesn’t taste very pleasant though.

X rays will be obtained by positioning you at different angles. You abdomen might be pressed slightly when x ray of your stomach and duodenum is being obtained. It doesn’t involve any pain.

What happens after the procedure?

You can eat normal diet after the x ray. You must drink plenty of fluids to flush out the barium.

Temporary constipation and whitening of stool is most likely to occur due to the barium.

Risks associated with x ray of upper digestive tract

X ray of upper digestive tract is considerably safe. The only concern is exposure to radiation which will certainly be studied by your doctor before conducting the test.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: December 29, 2014