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What is a barium enema?

Barium Enema

A barium enema is an X-ray procedure that examines your colon. The colon, also called the large intestine, is a long, hollow organ in your abdomen. It removes water from digested material and forms feces. A barium enema helps diagnose intestinal symptoms, such as changes in bowel movements, abdominal pain, or rectal bleeding.

A barium enema is also called a lower GI (gastrointestinal tract) series or lower GI tract radiography. It makes still pictures as well as moving images. It uses a special type of X-ray called fluoroscopy. 

The procedure involves putting barium inside the colon through a tube inserted into the rectum. Barium is a chalky metallic contrast material. It illuminates the colon to show detailed images of the inside of the colon. 

A barium enema is only one method used to diagnose colon conditions.  You may have less invasive testing options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your testing choices before having a barium enema.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 4, 2013

© 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

Barium Enema Examination. American Society of Radiologic Technologists. Accessed April 20, 2013.
Lower Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract X-ray (Radiography). Radiological Society of North America. Accessed April 20, 2013.
What is Lower GI Tract X-ray Radiography (Barium Enema)? Barnabas Health. Accessed April 20, 2013.

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