Contrast Radiography

A major improvement to the diagnostic accuracy of radiography has been the addition of contrast agents, which can be administered in a vein or instilled in a duct or hollow organ, such as barium sulphate in the alimentary tract. 
A contrast medium contains relatively dense material of a high atomic number that absorbs more of the x-rays than the surrounding tissues, hence making the stomach, colon, or vessel appear white on the x-ray film. One can then look for structural changes such as polyps, stones, or ulcerations.

Upper Gastrointestinal Series (UGI)

An upper gastrointestinal (UGI) series looks at the upper and middle sections of the gastrointestinal tract. The test uses barium contrast material, fluoroscopy, and X-ray. Before the test, you drink a mix of barium (barium contrast material) and water. The barium is often combined with gas-making crystals. 
Your doctor watches the movement of the barium through your oesophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) on a video screen. Several X-ray pictures are taken at different times and from different views.

Barium is a dry, white, chalky, metallic powder that is mixed with water to make a thick milkshake-like drink. Barium is an x-ray absorber and appears white on x-ray film. When swallowed, a barium drink coats the inside walls of the upper GI tract organs so that the swallowing motion, inside wall lining, function, size, and shape of these organs are visible on x-ray. This process shows differences that might not be seen on standard x-rays. Barium is used only for diagnostic studies of the GI tract.

The exam will take approximately half an hour. Additional films of the barium moving through the small intestine may be taken when requested by the referring physician. This can add anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours. Throughout these procedures, the patient usually feels no discomfort or pain.


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