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Your doctor may first perform an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series and endoscopy to check for ulcers.

An upper GI series involves X-rays of the esophagus, stomach and the beginning of the small intestine, called the duodenum. You will be asked to drink a chalky liquid, called barium, to make these organs appear more clearly on the X-ray.

During an endoscopy, the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract is visualized by using a long, thin and flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end, called an endoscope. The areas examined during this procedure include the esophagus, or the swallowing tube leading to the stomach, the stomach and the duodenum. The high-quality picture from the endoscope is shown on a television monitor and provides a clear, detailed view. In many cases, upper GI endoscopy is a more precise examination than X-ray studies.

This procedure is performed by a gastroenterologist, a well-trained specialist who uses the endoscope to diagnose, and in some cases treat, problems of the upper digestive system. Your doctor will be assisted by specially trained nurses and technicians who are essential in performing the procedure safely and effectively.

If an ulcer is found, your doctor will then test you for the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This test is important because treatment for an ulcer caused by H. pylori is different from that of an ulcer caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). H. pylori is most commonly diagnosed through blood test, although breath, stool and tissue tests also may be used.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers


Gastroenterology at Mount Zion
1701 Divisadero St., Suite 120
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 502-4444
Fax: (415) 502-2249
Appointment information

Gastroenterology at Parnassus
350 Parnassus Ave., Suite 410
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 502-2112
Fax: (415) 514-3300
Appointment information

Gastrointestinal Motility & Secretion Center
400 Parnassus Ave., Box 0310
San Francisco, CA 94143-0310
Phone: (415) 353-9383
Fax: (415) 353-2505
Appointment information