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Barium Enema (Lower GI Series)


Updated April 26, 2006

Barium Enema (Lower GI Series)

Barium Enema, photo courtesy of NCI

What is a Barium Enema:

A barium enema is a test that is also called a lower GI series. It is an enema that contains a compound (barium) that allows the intestines to be x-rayed.

Reasons for a Barium Enema:

A barium enema is given to find any abnormalities in the intestines. It is used in the diagnosis of colon cancers, IBS, and to see if a cancer has spread to the colon.

What Happens During the Test:

During a barium enema, you will lay down on a table, covered. An enema will be inserted into the rectum. At the tip of the enema, there may be a balloon that will inflate, not allowing the contents to leak out of the rectum. X-rays will be taken, possibly in several positions.

Is is Painful:

Painful, no. Uncomfortable, yes. You will probably feel cramping and may feel like you need to have a bowel movement. Deep breathing exercises are really helpful.

Preparing for a Barium Enema:

The doctor will give you exact instructions. You will probably have to drink a liquid (laxative) the night before to remove any stool contents. You may have to have water enemas and be on a clear liquid diet.


The only real risk in having a barium enema is radiation exposure. It is a very low exposure. Doctors will tell you the benefits of having the test certainly outweigh the risk.

How Long Does a Barium Enema Take to Perform:

It generally will take 30-60 muntes.

What to Tell the Doctor:

Always inform the doctor if you are in any pain during or before the procedure. If you are pregnant or think you may be, the doctor absolutely needs to know.


Created: 02/12/06
Reference: national Cancer Institute - Glossary
American College of Radiology
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