(Barium X-ray; Lower GI Series)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays. Barium is placed into the bowels through the rectum. This is called an enema. Barium coats the lining of the lower intestines. This makes that area easier to see on an x-ray.
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:
Possible Complications TOP
Complications are rare. Some may have an allergic reaction to the barium or latex of the tube. Talk to your doctor about any allergies you may have.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Test
Tell your doctor if you are allergic to latex or barium.
Your intestines must be empty before this test. Your doctor may ask you to:
Description of Test
The doctor will gently insert a well-lubricated enema tube into your rectum. 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 balloon keeps the barium inside. The doctor will move you several times to make sure 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:
Follow your doctor's instructions after the test.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-2 hours
Will It Hurt?
You may feel discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. You may have bloating and severe cramping during the test. You may also feel as if you need to move your bowels.
It may take up to a few days to receive your test results. If the results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Society of Radiologic Technologists
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Radiology Consultants Associated
Barium enema. McKinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website. Available at: http://www.mckinley.uiuc.edu/handouts/barium_enema.html . Updated June 14, 2011. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract x-ray (radiography). Radiology Info.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=lowergi . Updated June 5, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Lower GI series. National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lowergi/ . Updated April 23, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013