Medical Library

Medical Library

Lower GI Tract (Barium Enema)

What is Lower GI Tract X-ray (Radiography)?
Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract radiography, also called a lower GI, is an x-ray examination of the large intestine, also known as the colon. This includes the rectum. The appendix and a portion of the small intestine may also be included. The lower GI uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material called barium. 

Common uses of Barium Enama Exam
Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. When the lower gastrointestinal tract is filled with barium, the radiologist is able to view and assess the anatomy and function of the rectum, colon and part of the lower small intestine. A physician may order a lower GI examination to detect or diagnose:
  • Ulcers 
  • Benign tumors (such as polyps) 
  • Cancer 
  • Signs of other intestinal illnesses 
  • Chronic diarrhea 
  • Blood in stools 
  • Constipation 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • A change in bowel habits 
  • Suspected blood loss
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. 
Patient preparation for the procedure
You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to contrast material. Also inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions. You will need to pick up a bowel evaculant kit from your physician several days before the scheduled exam. This kit will instruct you as follows:
  • Follow a clear liquid diet with no red dye foods
  • Drink only clear liquids like juice, tea, black coffee, cola or broth, and to avoid dairy products
  • 8pm– drink 10 oz Magnesium Citrate chilled
  • 10pm – take laxative tablets
  • Drink plenty of water
  • On the day of examination you will need to complete the enema with the suppository two hours before your scheduled procedure
  • You can take your usual prescribed oral medications with limited amounts of water.
  • You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure
  • Metal objects including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins may affect the CT images and should be left at home or removed prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work.

Also inform your doctor of any recent illnesses or other medical conditions, and if you have a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid problems. Any of these conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect. Women should always inform their physician or technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

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