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What is a Barium Enema?

A barium enema is a type of X-ray imaging test that allows doctors to examine your lower intestinal tract. It involves delivering a contrast solution that contains the metallic element barium into your rectum while a technician takes X-ray images of the area. The barium solution will be delivered using an enema — a process in which a doctor pushes a liquid into your rectum through your anus.

The barium solution helps to improve the quality of the X-ray images by highlighting certain areas of tissue. The X-ray used in this procedure is known as fluoroscopy. It allows the radiologist to see your internal organs in motion by tracking the flow of the barium solution through your intestinal tract.

The test doesn’t require painkillers or sedation, but there may be moments of slight discomfort.

Part 2 of 6: Purpose

Why a Barium Enema Is Done

Your doctor may order a barium enema if he or she suspects there is an abnormality in your lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes your rectum and colon. There are numerous conditions and symptoms that could prompt your doctor to examine your lower GI tract, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in your stools
  • a change in your bowel movements
  • Crohn’s disease
  • chronic diarrhea
  • colorectal cancer
  • diverticulitis
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • polyps
  • rectal bleeding
  • a twisted loop of the bowels (volvulus)
  • ulcerative colitis