Barium enema

Barium enema

Barium enema

Alternative Names: Lower GI study

A barium enema, or lower GI study, is a type of X-ray that uses barium, which shows up on X-rays, to create images of the rectum and colon. This test is used to investigate abnormalities such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits. These abnormalities may be indications of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and colon cancer. To empty the colon for the test, you will drink laxatives the day before and have an enema on the day of the test. During the test, barium is run into your colon through a thin tube (a catheter), which is inserted into your rectum, and then X-rays are taken.

What is it?
A barium enema is an X-ray imaging technique that uses radio-opaque barium (barium that shows up on X-rays), within the rectum and colon, to create images of the rectum and colon.

It is performed in a radiology (X-ray) facility or hospital department and it takes approximately 1-3 hours.

Why is it done?
A barium enema is done when looking for abnormalities of the colon and rectum. It is often used when investigating:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in bowel habits

It is used when considering diagnoses such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and colon cancer.

What happens?

Before – how to prepare
The colon needs to be emptied before the test and this usually involves drinking laxatives in the preceding 24 hours as well as enemas on the day of the procedure.

During – how the test is done
You will lie on an X-ray table, usually on your side. A catheter (thin tube) is gently inserted into your rectum. Barium is run through this catheter and into your colon, after which various X-rays are taken. You may be asked to move into certain positions for some of the X-rays to be taken.

You will have a feeling of fullness and an urge to defecate during the procedure, but the discomfort is not severe.

After the test
You will be taken to a toilet and pass as much of the barium as possible.

Risks and Compilations
X-ray radiation can, theoretically be dangerous but most experts are not concerned about this. Perforation of the bowel, where barium leaks out into the abdominal cavity is a serious, but rare, complication.

Short Description
A barium enema, or lower GI study, is a type of X-ray that uses barium, which shows up on X-rays, to create images of the rectum and colon.

Keywords
lower GI study, barium enema, barium



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