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A lower GI or contrast enema is a test that produces images of a patient’s large intestine, which includes the colon and anus. This test is sometimes called a barium enema. Its full name is lower gastrointestinal tract radiography.
This test uses a form of X-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast liquid, either a milky white substance called barium or a clear liquid containing iodine. Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion, kind of like a “live” X-ray. It allows visualization of the colon and rectum and how they function. The contrast liquid helps the bowel to appear more clearly on the viewing screen.
Patients may have this test when they have problems with bowel movements, such as chronic diarrhea, constipation, blood in stools, a change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, or abdominal pain.
The test usually takes about 30 minutes.
A radiologist and radiological technologist perform the test.
A barium enema is a type of X-ray, so it uses a small amount of ionizing radiation to produce images. The amount of radiation is very small. The medical benefits far outweigh the small amount of radiation exposure. Parents should discuss any concerns with the medical team.
Parents should make sure the patient:
The tube in the patient’s rectum will feel uncomfortable. The patient will feel like he has to have a bowel movement. There could be some cramping. These feelings will only last a short time.
The radiologist will interpret the results and send a report to the doctor who ordered the test. A member of the medical team will share results at the next appointment.
Reviewed: June 2018