A BARIUM ENEMA (lower GI series) is an x-ray examination of the large intestine, also known as the colon. An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.

The lower GI uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material called barium or a water soluble iodinated contrast.

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 sometimes part of the lower small intestine.

The procedure is frequently performed to help diagnose symptoms such as:

  • chronic diarrhea.
  • blood in stools.
  • constipation.
  • irritable bowel syndrome.
  • unexplained weight loss.
  • a change in bowel habits.
  • suspected blood loss.
  • abdominal pain.

 

Preparation for the examination:

You will be instructed to come to Verrazano Radiology at least 2 days prior to your exam to pick up a bowel prep kit. Please follow instruction inside the bowel prep kit.

How is the procedure performed?

The lower GI examination is usually done on an outpatient basis and is often scheduled in the morning to reduce the patient's fasting time.

A radiology technologist and a radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, guide the patient through the barium enema.

The patient is positioned on the examination table and an x-ray film is taken to ensure the bowel is clean. After performing a rectal examination, the radiologist or technologist will then insert a small tube into the rectum and begin to instill, using gravity, a mixture of barium and water into the colon. Air may also be injected through the tube to help the barium thoroughly coat the lining of the colon. In some circumstances, the radiologist or referring physician may prefer a water and iodine solution rather than barium. Next, a series of x-ray images is taken.

You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the x-ray machine.

The patient may be repositioned frequently in order to image the colon from several angles. Some x-ray equipment will allow patients to remain in the same position throughout the examination.

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 x-ray images are completed, most of the barium will be emptied through the tube. The patient will then expel the remaining barium and air in the restroom. In some cases, additional x-ray images will be taken.

A barium enema is usually completed within 30 to 60 minutes.

Who will interpret the examination?

Your examination will be interpreted by a Radiologist, who is a Physician (M.D.) specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations. He/she will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will discuss the results with you. Upon request, you can arrange a consultation with the Radiologist who interpreted your examination.