Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
A barium enema examination, or lower GI series, is an x-ray procedure used to visualize the interior anatomy of your large intestine, or colon, and rectum.
Your digestive tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and the rectum.
Food travels down the digestive tract in this order.
The main functions of the colon are to absorb water into the body, change liquid waste material into solid waste material known as feces,
and store feces until enough accumulates to be passed from the anus as a bowel movement.
Abnormal conditions may develop in your colon, such as colon cancer, polyps,
outpouchings of the colon wall called diverticula, ulcers, or narrowed areas known as strictures.
If you develop unexplained bleeding, abdominal pain, or a change in your bowel habits, your doctor may recommend you get a barium enema examination.
Before the procedure, you’ll be asked to lie down on an x- ray table.
A lubricated tube will be carefully inserted into your rectum.
A bag containing barium will be attached to the tube, and the barium will be allowed to flow into your colon.
When enough barium has flowed into your colon, you’ll be asked to try very hard not to expel any of it while x-rays are taken.
A tiny balloon attached to the tubing that carries the barium may be inflated to prevent any barium from leaking out during the exam.
While the x-ray pictures are being taken, you’ll be asked to roll from side-to-side, or to stand up.
This lets the barium flow to different areas so that sufficient x-ray images can be obtained of your entire colon.
After many x-ray pictures are taken, you will be given a bedpan or taken to a bathroom and asked to expel as much of the barium as possible.
A few more x-rays may be taken after you have passed most of the barium out of your colon, because the small remaining amount of barium clearly illuminates the outline of your colon.
After your barium enema, you can go home.
You will most likely be able to resume your normal diet.
Most radiologists instruct patients to increase their fluid intake for a period of time to be certain all of the barium is passed.
You will likely notice more gas than usual, and see barium in the next several bowel movements that you pass.