Medical Services

X-ray - Lower GI (Barium Enema)

Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract radiography, also called a lower GI or barium enema, is an x-ray examination of the large intestine, also known as the colon. This includes the right or ascending colon, the transverse colon, the left or descending colon, sigmoid colon and the rectum. The appendix and a portion of the distal small intestine may also be included.
An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.

The lower GI uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material called barium.

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:

  • benign tumors (such as polyps)
  • cancer
  • signs of other intestinal illnesses

The procedure is frequently performed to help diagnose symptoms such as:

  • chronic diarrhea
  • blood in stools
  • constipation
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • unexplained weight loss
  • a change in bowel habits
  • suspected blood loss
  • abdominal pain

Images of the small bowel and colon are also used to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease, a group of disorders that includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

How to prepare for your lower GI exam:

  • Clear liquid starting at noon the day before your examination.
  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight prior to your examination.
  • Bowel preparation is necessary for the examination. The preparation kit is available at the CVMC Medical Imaging department at no additional charge and contains complete instructions for its use. Please pick up this kit two days prior to your examination.