A barium enema is an X-ray examination of the large intestine, also known as the colon. This includes the right or ascending colon, the transverse colon, the left or descending colon and the rectum. The appendix and a portion of the small intestine may also be included. A special form of X-ray called fluoroscopy is used to visualize a contrast material called barium within the colon. Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. When the lower gastrointestinal tract is filled with barium, the radiologist is able to view and assess the anatomy and function of the rectum, colon and part of the lower small intestine.
How Should I Prepare for the Procedure?
Your physician will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your lower GI imaging. After midnight, you should not eat or drink anything. You may also be instructed to take a laxative (in either pill or liquid form) and to use an over-the-counter enema preparation the night before the exam and possibly a few hours before the procedure. Just follow your doctor’s instructions. You can take your usual prescribed oral medications with limited amounts of water.
What Are Some Common Reasons for the Procedure?
- Benign tumors such as polyps
- Cancer; signs of other intestinal illnesses
- Blood in stools; constipation
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Unexplained weight loss
- A change in bowel habits
- Suspected blood loss
For Your Safety, Be Sure to Inform the Technologists Of:
- Allergies you may have
- Medications you are currently taking
- Any previous surgery
- Pregnancy or possible pregnancy
After Your Test
You can get back to your normal routine right away, but drink more water than usual. Water will help relieve constipation and dehydration that you may have after the test. Your stool may appear white or light for a day or two. Your doctor will let you know when the results are in.