Barium Enema Definition

Barium Enema is a diagnostic imaging procedure to examine the structures of the lower gastrointestinal tract including the rectum and colon, sometimes called a lower GI (gastrointestinal) series.

The gastroenterologist may request a barium enema to help diagnose intestinal polyps, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease (ibs), hirschsprung’s disease, intestinal obstruction, colorectal cancer, and rectal prolapse. Preparation for barium enema typically includes a clear liquid diet for two days before the procedure, a laxative the night before the procedure, and an enema the morning before the procedure to cleanse the colon.

The test consists of a barium mixture administered via enema, followed by a series of X-rays (fluoroscopy). Body position and the heaviness of the barium help the barium mixture to flow upward into the lower gastrointestinal tract. For a single-contrast barium enema, the radiologist takes X-ray images of the barium-filled colon and rectum.

For a double-contrast barium enema the person eliminates as much barium as possible after the first series of X-rays, then the radiologist injects a small amount of air into the lower bowel and takes another X-ray series.

Double-contrast barium enema provides more detailed visualization. The heaviness and pressure of the barium make the procedure uncomfortable and some people experience cramping.

The procedure takes 20 to 45 minutes, with the person placed in different positions to help move the barium through the colon. Light-colored stools are normal for several days after the procedure while the barium clears the body. A rare complication is bowel perforation.


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