A barium enema, or lower gastrointestinal (GI) examination, is an Reference X-ray Opens New Window examination of the Reference large intestine Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window (colon and rectum). The test is used to help diagnose diseases and other problems that affect the large intestine. To make the intestine visible on an X-ray picture, the colon is filled with a Reference contrast material Opens New Window containing barium. This is done by pouring the contrast material through a tube inserted into the anus. The barium blocks X-rays, causing the barium-filled colon to show up clearly on the X-ray picture.
There are two types of barium enemas.
- In a Reference single-contrast study Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, the colon is filled with barium, which outlines the intestine and reveals large abnormalities.
- In a double-contrast or Reference air-contrast study Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, the colon is first filled with barium and then the barium is drained out, leaving only a thin layer of barium on the wall of the colon. The colon is then filled with air. This provides a detailed view of the inner surface of the colon, making it easier to see narrowed areas (strictures), Reference diverticula Opens New Window, or inflammation.
In some cases, the single-contrast study may be preferred for specific medical reasons or for older people who may not be able to tolerate the time-consuming and somewhat more uncomfortable double-contrast study. But if the results are not clear, a double-contrast study may also be done.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference April 25, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology