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A contrast barium enema produces images of the large intestine. It includes the colon and anus.
This test is sometimes called a lower GI series. Its full name is lower gastrointestinal tract radiography.
A doctor may want your child to have this test if he or she has:
This test uses a form of X-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast liquid. The liquid is either a milky white substance called barium or a clear liquid containing iodine. The contrast liquid helps the bowel to appear more clearly on the viewing screen.
Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. It’s like a “live” X-ray. It allows doctors to see the colon and rectum and how they function.
Here’s what you and your child can expect during the test:
The test usually takes about 30 minutes.
A radiologist and radiological technologist perform the test.
A barium enema is a type of X-ray. That means it uses a small amount of ionizing radiation to produce images. The amount of radiation is very small.
The medical benefits outweigh the small amount of radiation exposure. You should discuss any concerns with your child’s care team.
Preparation usually involves taking magnesium citrate and drinking lots of water. Your child’s stools should be watery and clear several hours before the test.
These tips can help you make sure everything is in order before your child’s test:
The tube will feel uncomfortable. It may make your child feel like they need 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 your child’s care team will share results at the next appointment.
Reviewed: October 2021