Barium enema is a special x-ray of the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum.
Lower gastrointestinal series; Lower GI series; Colorectal cancer - lower GI series; Colorectal cancer - barium enema; Crohn disease - lower GI series; Crohn disease - barium enema; Intestinal blockage - lower GI series; Intestinal blockage - barium enema
How the Test is Performed
This test may be done in a doctor's office or hospital radiology department. It is done after your colon is completely empty and clean. Your doctor will give you instructions for cleansing your colon.
During the test:
- You lie flat on your back on the x-ray table. An x-ray is taken.
- You then lie on your side. The health care provider gently inserts a well-lubricated tube (enema tube) into your rectum. The tube is connected to a bag that holds a liquid containing barium sulfate. This is a contrast material that highlights specific areas in the colon, creating a clear image.
- The barium flows into your colon. X-rays are taken. A small balloon at the tip of the enema tube may be inflated to help keep the barium inside your colon. The provider monitors the flow of the barium on an x-ray screen.
- Sometimes a small amount of air is delivered into the colon to expand it. This allows for even clearer images. This test is called a double contrast barium enema.
- You are asked to move into different positions. The table is slightly tipped to get different views. At certain times when the x-ray pictures are taken, you are told to hold your breath and be still for a few seconds so the images will not be blurry.
- The enema tube is removed after the x-rays are taken.
- You are then given a bedpan or helped to the toilet, so you can empty your bowels and remove as much of the barium as possible. Afterward, 1 or 2 more x-rays may be taken.