Small Bowel Series

A Small Bowel Series is an x-ray exam of your upper digestive tract (the area from the start of your small intestine to the start of your colon). This test helps your doctor find problems such as obstructions, tumors and certain diseases.


  • Arrive 15 minutes prior to your exam with a order if your doctor has given you one.
  • Adults: Nothing to eat or drink (including water) after midnight the night before the exam. No gum chewing or hard candy. No smoking of any kind.
  • Children & Infants: Bring bottle the infant will drink from.
    • 0-6 months: Nothing by mouth for 2 hours prior to the examination.   
    • 6 mo-1 year: Nothing by mouth for 3 hours prior to the examination. 
    • 1-2 years: Nothing by mouth for 4 hours prior to the examination.  
    • 2-16 years: Nothing by mouth including gum after midnight.


  • You will drink barium (a liquid that improves x-ray images).
  • You may need to lie in different positions.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for a short time during the x-ray.
  • Everyone's bowels work differently and the movement of barium through the small bowel could take from 45 minutes to several hours; plan accordingly.


  •  Small Bowel Series and Barium Enema cannot be performed the same day. There must be a five-day interval between the two exams.
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If this is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

For your safety, please select a MyChart video visit on demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if:

  • You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In the past 21 days, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • In the past 14 days, you have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You are experiencing a new loss of taste and/or sense of smell
  • If you have experienced two or more of the following symptoms in the last 3 days:
    • fever
    • chills
    • drenching sweats
    • new cough
    • shortness of breath
    • body aches
    • headache
    • sore throat
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • nausea/vomiting/diarrhea

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email

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