X-Ray and Fluoroscopy Overview:

Conventional X-rays can be used for diagnosing breaks, bone abnormalities, chest problems and other common complaints. An X-ray is typically a simple, painless procedure that produces an image to allow the radiologist quickly evaluate bone and soft tissue anatomy.

Fluoroscopy is an enhanced X-ray procedure that produces live, moving images on a video monitor. It is especially helpful in diagnosing problems of the digestive tract, kidneys and bowel. Fluoroscopy procedures, like X-rays, involve safe, low doses of radiation. Unlike most x-ray exams, fluoroscopy procedures may involve patient preparation and need to be scheduled in advance.

Upper Gastrointestinal (GI):

An Upper GI Series is an X-ray exam of your upper digestive tract, the area from your mouth to the start of your small intestine or duodenum.

An Upper GI series uses a special form of X-ray called Fluoroscopy, which provides a view of how your GI tract looks and functions. The exam also uses a contrast material called barium to improve the x-ray images.

An upper GI exam helps to assess overall digestive function and detect:

  • Ulcers
  • Tumors
  • Inflammation of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Scarring
  • Blockages
  • Abnormalities of the muscular wall of gastrointestinal tissues

The procedure may help diagnose various symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest and abdominal pain
  • Reflux (a backward flow of partially digested food and digestive juices)
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Severe indigestion
  • Blood in the stool (indicating internal GI bleeding)

Small Bowel Follow Through:

A Small Bowel Follow Through is a radiographic examination that produces X-ray images of the stomach and small bowel parts of the gastrointestinal tract. This examination is performed to look for conditions such as a perforation or an obstruction of the small bowel.

The exam typically takes one to two hours, depending on the speed of your digestive processes. If your digestive system is slow or partially obstructed, digestion can take many hours, even days, and would require follow up images periodically during that time to track the digestive process.

Patient Preparation

For the upper GI examination to be successful, your stomach and upper GI tract must be completely empty. This means you probably will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the exam. You also may be required to take a laxative to help clear your digestive tract before the exam. Your doctor or the Radiology Department can give you specific instructions, which you should follow closely.

Before your examination, a radiographer will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have. Prior to performing your examination, the radiographer will give you a hospital gown to wear so your clothing does not interfere with the required quality of the image.

If you are a woman of childbearing age, the radiographer will ask if there is any possibility you are pregnant. It is important that you tell the radiographer the date of your last menstrual period and whether there is a chance that you may be pregnant.


Inside the X-ray room, the radiographer will take an X-ray of your abdomen to make certain that your stomach is empty. Next, you will be asked to drink liquid barium. Barium is a special compound that allows radiographic visualization of the gastrointestinal tract. Barium usually is white or pink, and it may be flavored. It coats the walls of your upper digestive tract, casting shadows that can be recorded on X-ray film.

As the barium flows through your digestive tract, the radiographer will take X-rays to watch the barium move through your small intestine. The technologist may ask you to walk around, sit up or lay on your right side in order to help the barium move through your intestine more quickly. Once the barium reaches the juncture of your small intestine to your large intestine, the radiologist will come in and take some fluoroscopy images. They may ask you to turn from side to side or they may gently press on your stomach so they can see everything.

Once the examination is complete, the radiologist will interpret the medical images and dictate a report for your ordering physician.

You should increase your water intake in the days following your examination. The barium may make your stools white for a few days. This is normal. If you experience constipation following the examination, tell your doctor. You may be advised to take a laxative.

The radiation that you are exposed to during this examination, like the radiation produced during any other X-ray procedure, passes through you immediately. You are not “radioactive,” and it is not necessary to take any special precautions following your examination.

Please remember that the material presented here is for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions about a medical imaging procedure, contact your physician or the Radiology Department of the institution where your test will be performed.

To schedule an imaging procedure, please call Radiology Scheduling at (903) 870-3604.