(Barium X-ray; Lower GI Series)
Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays
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
What to Expect
Prior to Test
If you are allergic to latex or barium, tell your doctor.
Since 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.
Description of Test
The doctor will gently insert a well-lubricated enema tube into your rectum. In some cases, 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 is to keep the barium inside. The doctor will reposition you several times to ensure that 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.
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 told otherwise by your doctor
- 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)
After your test, follow your doctor's instructions.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-2 hours
Will It Hurt?
You may feel discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. During the test, you may have bloating and severe cramping. You may also feel as if you need to move your bowels.
It may take up to few days to receive your test results. If the results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend:
- Follow-up testing
- Treatment options
American Society of Radiologic Technologists
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Radiology Consultants Associated
Barium enema. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/bariumenema/rd069103.pdf. Updated May 2, 2008. Accessed July 15, 2009.
Beers MH. The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 2nd ed. London, England: Simon and Schuster, Inc; 2003.
Department of Radiology at University of Iowa website. Available at http://www.radiology.uiowa.edu/. Accessed July 15, 2009.
Lower GI series. National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lowergi/. Published November 2004. Accessed July 15, 2009.
Last reviewed October 2009 by
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