What is a Barium Enema (Lower GI) exam?

The barium enema examination is a diagnostic procedure which uses a "contrast agent" called barium sulfate and x-rays to obtain clear pictures of your large intestine also known as the colon.   Ordinarily, x-rays pass through the soft tissues of the body, such as those found in your lower digestive tract.  However, barium sulfate coats the walls of your lower digestive tract, thereby casting shadows that can be recorded in x-ray film.

What will the exam be like?

The lower gastrointestinal (GI) examination will be performed by a radiologist specializing in GI examinations.  For this exam, you will change from your clothing into a hospital gown. You will be positioned on the examination table and an x-ray film is taken to assure the bowel is clean.  The technologist will then insert a small tube into the rectum and the radiologist will begin to pump a mixture of barium and water into the colon.  Air may also be pumped through the tube to help the barium thoroughly coat the lining of the colon

You will be repositioned frequently in order to image the colon from several angles and be asked to briefly hold your breath to prevent blurring of the images.

When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.  Once the images are completed, most of the barium will be drained through the tube.  You will then expel the remaining barium and air in the restroom.

How do I prepare for the Upper GI exam?

When you make your appointment, you will be instructed to pick up a prep kit at your exam location at least 48 hours before your exam.  Full instructions will be given at this time.

How long will the exam take?

A barium enema is usually completed within 30 to 60 minutes

What should I do following the exam?

After the exam, you will be free to return to normal activities and your usual diet, unless told otherwise by your doctor. It is normal for the barium to give a whitish color to your stools for the next day or two. Barium may cause constipation, so consult your physician regarding the need to increase your water intake or to take a laxative.

How will I learn the results of the exam?

The specialized body imaging radiologist will study the examination and consult with your doctor, who will advise you of the results.

What should I keep in mind when preparing for an lower GI?

Remember to tell your doctor or technologist, if you are:

  • Pregnant or think you may be
  • Undergoing radiation therapy
  • Subject to constipation

You should also:

  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • Avoid wearing jewelry - metallics may interfere with the accuracy of the film image

Be sure to ask your physician or technologist any questions relating to your examination. These questions will help evaluate your particular situation.

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, please call 888.364.6400.

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