What are Gastrointestinal (GI) Studies?

GI Studies assess the GI tract (esophagus, stomach, and intestine) using fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray technology) or CT.

To help detect abnormalities and certain symptoms, a contrast agent such as barium is often swallowed at the beginning of the exam. In some cases, you may be given a powder that produces gas inside the stomach, expanding it and making it easier to see during examination.

Types of GI Studies

Upper GI Study (UGI)

An upper GI study examines the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine, also known as the duodenum. When coated with a contrast agent (generally barium), the radiologist canassess the anatomy and function of your upper GI tract.

This non-invasive procedure can help diagnose the cause of symptoms such as:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • reflux (a backward flow of stomach contents, also known as GERD)
  • unexplained vomiting
  • chest or abdominal pain
  • severe indigestion

Small Bowel Follow Through (SBFT)

SBFT is a non-invasive fluoroscopic procedure that follows barium through the small bowel, examining size and structure and evaluating for abnormalities

The patient is administered barium contrast liquid and x-rays of the abdomen are taken at regular intervals until the entire small bowel is mapped. SBFT is used in the diagnosis of conditions such as:

  • Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • small bowel obstruction
  • cancer of the small intestine
  • abnormal masses or polyps
  • complications related to surgery of the abdomen or bowel

Duration: A SBFT exam can take from 1-4 hours, depending on the length of time needed for the barium to pass through the bowel.


Virtual Colonoscopy*

A virtual colonoscopy is used to diagnose colon (large bowel) and rectal disease including diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, polyps and cancer. This procedure uses computed tomography (CT) and may require IV contrast in addition to oral contrast. It is a useful alternative to colonoscopy for patients without a known problem or who have a history of bleeding from the colon.

Learn more

* This procedure is not covered by Alberta Health Care outside the hospital and is a patient-pay exam.

Exam Duration

10 Minutes – 60 Minutes

Gastrointestinal Studies Pricing

Covered by Alberta Health Care