(Barium X-ray; Lower GI Series)
Barium enema – Definition
Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays. Barium will be placed into your bowels through your rectum. This is called an enema. Barium coats the lining of your lower intestines. This makes that area easier to see on an x-ray.
Barium enema – Reasons for Test
You may have a barium enema to look for problems in your lower intestines. Some things your doctor may be looking for include:
- Abnormal growths (eg, polyps, cancers)
- Diverticula (small pouches in the wall of the large intestine)
- Thickening of the lining of the large intestine
Barium enema – What to Expect
Prior to Test
Tell your doctor if you are allergic to latex or barium.
Your intestines must be empty before this test. Your doctor may ask you to:
- Eat a clear liquid diet.
- Take laxatives.
- Use a warm water or over-the-counter enema.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
Barium enema – Description of Test
The doctor will gently insert a well-lubricated enema tube into your rectum. You may be given an injection to relax the rectum. Barium will be inserted through the tube. A small balloon at the end of the tube will be inflated. This balloon keeps the barium inside. The doctor will move you several times to make sure the barium coats the walls of the colon and rectum. A small amount of air will be inserted through the tube. The doctor will take a series of x-rays. After this, the enema tube will be removed.
Barium enema – After Test
After the test, you:
- Will be shown to the bathroom to pass the barium and may be given a laxative
- May feel mild to moderate abdominal cramping and may need to wait before driving home
- Can return to your regular diet unless your doctor tells you not to
- Can return to regular activities when you feel ready
- Should drink lots of fluids (barium can cause dehydration)
- May have white or gray stool for 2-3 days after the test (due to the barium)
Follow your doctor’s instructions after the test.
Barium enema – How Long Will It Take?
About 1-2 hours
Barium enema – Will It Hurt?
You may feel discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. You may have bloating and severe cramping during the test. You may also feel as if you need to move your bowels.
Barium enema – Results
It may take up to a few days to receive your test results. If the results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend:
- Follow-up testing
- Treatment options
Barium enema – Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Severe pain
- Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement (two or more days after the exam)
- Abdominal bloating
- Bloody stools
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.