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A barium enema (lower GI series) is an X–ray procedure that uses barium sulfate and air to outline the lining of the colon and rectum. The procedure begins with an enema containing barium sulfate, a chalky chemical that appears white on X–ray film.The enema fluid is briefly held inside the intestine while a series of X–rays is taken. In these X–rays, the white barium fluid allows some intestinal abnormalities to appear as dark silhouettes and patterns along the intestinal lining. Air can also be pumped into the intestine during this procedure to help sharpen the outline of the intestinal wall.This test takes about 45 minutes and it can be performed as an outpatient procedure, usually in the X–ray department of a hospital. Although the X–rays themselves are painless, the enema may cause some slight discomfort.

Because an empty colon and rectum give the best X–ray results, your doctor will give you instructions about using laxatives and/or enemas before the procedure. Your doctor will also tell you how to modify your diet, when to fast or to drink liquids.

Your barium enema X–rays will be read by a radiologist, who will give the results to your doctor. The X–ray facility will tell you when to call your doctor for the radiologist’s report.To help clear the remaining barium fluid from your bowel, your doctor will give you instructions about drinking water, taking laxatives, or using an enema. For a few days, while the barium clears, you will notice that your stools are an unusually light color.

Indications of Barium Enema
Risks with Barium Enema
The barium enema is a safe X–ray examination. Although there is a risk of intestinal blockage if the barium fluid is not cleared from your bowel, this can be prevented by following your doctor’s directions for bowel cleansing after the procedure.