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GI (Gastrointestinal) Series

This information will help you prepare for your gastrointestinal (GI) series at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

This information will help you prepare for your gastrointestinal (GI) series. A GI series is an x-ray that uses a liquid called barium to see the esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and part of the small intestine.

The Day Before Your Procedure

You can eat a normal dinner the night before your procedure. Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes water, gum, and hard candy.

The Day of Your Procedure

Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes water, gum, and hard candy.


Don't take any medication by mouth unless you have checked with your doctor first. If your doctor instructed you to take any medication, take it with a few sips of water. If you have other medication, bring it with you so you can take it after your exam is finished.

  • If you take insulin or other medications for diabetes, you may need to change the dose. Ask the doctor who prescribes this medication for you what you should do the day before and the morning of your procedure.

If your doctor tells you to take any medications the morning of your procedure, use the area below to write them down.

You should brush your teeth and rinse your mouth the morning of your exam, but do not swallow the water.

What to bring with you:

  • A list of the medications you take at home
  • Medications for breathing problems (such as inhalers) and medications for chest pain

Where to park. Parking at MSKCC is available in the garage on East 66th Street between York and First Avenues. To reach the garage, enter East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block in from York Avenue, on the right-hand (north) side of the street. There is a tunnel that goes from the garage into the hospital. There are also commercial garages nearby: 4 on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues and 3 on East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues. For questions about prices, call (212) 639-2338.

Where to go. Your procedure will take place at 425 East 67th Street. This is a side entrance of the main MSKCC building. Take the A elevator to the 2nd floor.

What to expect. Once you arrive at the hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members will ask you to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. Patients with the same or similar names may be having procedures on the same day.

After changing into a hospital gown and removing all necklaces, chains, and earrings, a radiologist will review the procedure with you and answer your questions. You will be given barium, a white, chalk-like liquid, to drink. The radiologist will tell you when and how much of it to drink.

You will be helped onto the x-ray table and helped to lie flat on your back. The radiologist will watch the barium move through your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine on x-ray. You may be asked to change positions or to stand, if you can. This will help the barium coat your intestines.

A technologist will take x-ray pictures throughout your exam. If you need x-rays of your small intestine, you will be given 1 to 2 extra cups of barium to drink. More x-rays will be taken 30 minutes apart. You will be asked to wait while your x-rays are being processed. Once the radiologist has reviewed all of the x-rays, you may leave. This process takes anywhere from 1 to 5 hours to complete. Occasionally additional x-rays are necessary 12 or 24 hours later. Your radiologist will tell you if this is necessary for you.

After Your Procedure

You can go back to your usual diet and activities unless your doctor or nurse tells you something different.

If you are an outpatient, your results will be available 2 days after your procedure. You can get the results from your doctor. If you are an inpatient, your results will be available the same day as your procedure. You can get the results from any doctor that is treating you.

Your stool (feces) will be white for the next few days as your body gets rid of the barium. Barium can cause constipation, so drink extra fluids to help move it out of your intestine. Some patients need a laxative such as milk of magnesia or an enema to remove all of the barium. If your stool has not returned to its normal color a few days after your barium enema, ask your doctor if you should take a laxative.

If you have any questions about your GI series, call the Department of Radiology at (212) 639-7298 Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. If you have a concern after 8:00 pm, call (212) 639-2000 and ask for the doctor on call for the doctor you usually see at MSKCC.