A barium enema, or lower gastrointestinal (GI) examination, is an X-ray examination of the large intestine (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 contrast material 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.
Why a barium enema is done:
Identify inflammation of the intestinal wall that occurs in inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. A barium enema also may be used to monitor the progress of these diseases.
Detect problems with the structure of the large intestine, such as narrowed areas (strictures) or pockets or sacs (diverticula) in the intestinal wall.
Help correct a condition called ileocolic intussusception , in which the end of a child’s small intestine protrudes into the large intestine.
Evaluate abdominal symptoms such as altered bowel habits, anemia, or unexplained weight loss.