UPPER GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT RADIOGRAPHY (GI)
(Barium Swallow, Barium Meal and Follow Through)
What is BAFT ?
Also called an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series or simply an upper GI, upper gastrointestinal tract radiography is an x-ray examination of the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine. However, in order for the anatomy to show up on radiographic
images, the upper gastrointestinal tract must be coated or filled with a contrast material called barium, an element that appears bright white on radiographs. The barium is given to the patient to drink. This procedure is called upper gastrointestinal tract radiography when the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum are evaluated, or a barium swallow when only the pharynx and esophagus
are evaluated. Additionally, some patients are asked to swallow baking-soda crystals to create gas and further improve the images; this procedure has the modified name of air-contrast or double-contrast upper GI.
Why is BAFT Done?
An upper GI procedure is done to observe digestive function or to detect abnormalities such as ulcers, tumors or inflammation of the esophagus, stomach and proximal small intestine. Patients who undergo this procedure are usually those who have difficulty swallowing, are complaining of chest and abdominal pain or reflux (a backward flow of partially digested food and digestive juices), or have unexplained vomiting, severe indigestion, or blood in the stool (indicating internal bleeding).
How is the Test Performed?
It is done usually as an outpatient procedure and scheduled in the morning to reduce your time of fasting. You will be asked to drink a cup of liquid barium, which resembles a light-colored milkshake. You may be asked to swallow baking-soda crystals (sometimes called fizzies), which will create gas in your stomach.
The radiologist will note the passage of barium into your esophagus and stomach on the fluoroscopic monitor. Once the upper gastrointestinal tract is adequately coated with the barium, still radiographs are obtained.
The examination is usually completed within 30 minutes.
On the day of the test…
- Please wear comfortable clothing while coming for the test.
- Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry and credit cards.
- The quality of the images obtained during this procedure can be degraded if the stomach is not empty of food. Therefore, you will likely be asked not to eat or drink anything (including orally administered medications, especially antacids) after midnight on the morning of the examination. Nor should you chew gum or smoke after this time as these activities can cause stomach secretions, which also may degrade the quality of the images.
- Your test is performed by a registered technician.
- The images will be interpreted by a board-certified radiologist.
During the Test…
The liquid barium has a chalky taste, although the taste can be masked somewhat by added flavors such as strawberry or chocolate. If you receive gas producing crystals, you may feel the need to belch. However, the radiologist or technologist will tell you to hold the gas in as its presence in the stomach enhances the detail in the radiographic images.
First you will be standing up, then lying down, as the radiologist obtains pictures of your esophagus and stomach. You will be asked to hold your breath to prevent blurring of the still images. Also, periodically you will be asked to move into different positions while standing, and to roll into different positions while lying on the examining table. The technologist or the radiologist may want you to drink more barium.
Once the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait. At this time, the radiologist will preliminarily examine the images to be sure they contain the necessary information.
After the examination, you can resume a regular diet and take orally administered medications unless told otherwise by your doctor. The barium may color stools gray or white for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure. Sometimes the barium can cause temporary constipation.
After the test…
You will be able to resume your usual activities. Date and time for the collection of the report shall be communicated to you. Your physician will discuss the test results with you.
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