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A barium swallow (also called an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series) is a diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs.