Upper GI (Barium swallow or small bowel follow through)


When a doctor wishes to examine your digestive system, they often will have you go for a barium test. These tests are x-rays taken of your digestive system using barium. Barium is a white, chalky substance that coats the walls of your throat, stomach or bowels. The radiologist can then examine the area in detail.

  • An appointment is  required
  • You MUST bring the REQUISITION and your HEALTH CARD
  • If you are late for your appointment or are not properly prepared, you will be rebooked
  • Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment to register
  • 24 Hours notice is required to change or cancel an appointment or you will be charged for the missed appointment


An Upper GI or barium swallow is a test to show the esophagus (throat), stomach and first part of the small intestine.

You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and put on a gown and take off any necklaces or earrings. The radiologist will then take you into the exam room. They will ask you to drink a small amount of barium and then will take pictures with the x-ray machine. You may be given gas granules to swallow as well. This creates air in the stomach and may allow for better visualization. The doctor will instruct you when and how much barium to drink. They will move you in various positions to see all the structures well. The test generally takes 5 or 10 minutes. If your doctor wants to examine the small bowel (small bowel follow through, SBFT) you will be asked to wait in your change room and drink more barium. Several pictures will be taken, at various intervals, by the x-ray technologist to see the barium move through your bowels. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on your system. Once it has reached a certain point, the radiologist will take you back into the room and do more images. You are then free to go.

You will not have any problems after the test and may carry on with your normal routine. The pictures are read by the radiologist who then sends the report to your doctor.