BARIUM ENEMA DEFINITION
A barium enema is an x-ray examination that is used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon). It is also called “gastrografin enema”, “barium studies”, or “colon x-ray”.
It involves delivering a contrast solution that contains a metallic element (barium) into your rectum, with the aid of a small tube, to coat the lining of your colon. The process of injecting a liquid into one’s rectum through a small tube is called an enema.
PURPOSE OF BARIUM ENEMA
Your doctor may suspect an abnormality in your lower gastrointestinal tract (GIT), based on certain conditions or symptoms, which may include:
- Blood in feces.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Abdominal pain.
- Crohn’s disease.
- Ulcerative colitis.
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Colorectal cancer.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- A change in your bowel movement.
- A twisted loop of the bowels (volvulus).
BARIUM ENEMA PREP
Your doctor may give you some guidelines for a successful outcome. Tell your doctor if you’ve been having problems with your bowel movements before the test. You may be asked to:
- Cleanse your bowels the night before your test. This may include using laxatives or taking an enema at home.
- Not eat anything after midnight (on the night before your procedure). On the day of the procedure, you can drink clear liquids like water, juice, tea without milk, etc.
- Drop your jewelry at home, or remove them before the x-ray process.
BARIUM ENEMA PROCEDURE
A barium enema test may take between 30 and 60 minutes to be fully performed. It is carried out by a radiologist at the hospital or a specialized testing facility.
You will change into a hospital gown and remove all jewelry and other metals from your body. Metals can affect an x-ray process.
- You’ll be positioned on an exam table.
- X-rays will be taken to confirm whether your bowels are clear.
- Your rectum will be examined physically.
- The radiologist will then insert a small tube into your rectum, through which the barium and water mixture is passed into the colon.
- He will gently allow air into your colon to expand it, for improved image quality. This is known as an “air contrast barium enema”.
- You’ll be asked to hold still and hold your breath while the technician takes your x-ray images.
- Your x-ray images will be taken at several points of your repositioning. This may cause you some mild discomfort and cramping.
After The Procedures: The majority of the barium and water will be removed via the tube. You’ll pass the rest out in the restroom. Barium may cause constipation, so you may drink extra fluids after the examination. Your doctor may equally recommend a laxative.
BARIUM ENEMA INDICATIONS & RESULTS
The radiologist will prepare a report based on the results of the examination and send it to your doctor who would discuss the result with you. The barium enema indication is either “negative” or “positive”.
- Negative: No abnormality in the colon.
- Positive: Abnormalities in the colon.
You may need additional tests like a colonoscopy. If your doctor is so disturbed about the quality of your x-ray images, he/she may order a repeated barium enema or an alternative diagnostic test.
BARIUM ENEMA SIDE EFFECTS & RISKS
The most common risk of a barium enema test is an allergic reaction to the barium solution, but other rare complications may include:
- Perforated walls of the colon.
- Cancer risk (due to x-ray radiations).
- The blockage of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
- Tissue inflammation around the colon (large intestine).
- A tear in the colon may cause a leakage of the barium solution.
After the gastrografin enema test, you can go on with your normal daily activities. You may be allowed to resume your normal diet, but you should take in more fluid and increase your intake of fibers. Also try eating foods like whole-wheat pasta, beans, peas, and raspberries.
Taking laxatives can help in removing barium. It is normal if you have feces that are lighter in color, or white feces, after a barium enema. Your rectum or anus may be sour, but it will soon return to normal.
Any observance of pain with bowel movement, rectal bleeding, or fever, should be reported to your doctor. If you do not have bowel movements for 2 days after the exam, or you are unable to gas, report immediately to your doctor.
- What are the side effects of barium enema?
The side effects of barium enema include laxative side effects (such as mild headache and bloating; which usually don’t last long) and barium side effects. Barium is usually harmless but can cause barium side effects like upset stomach or constipation, as well as an allergic reaction (in very rare cases).
- Is barium enema better than colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is far better than barium enema in detecting polyps and colitis. It also has the added advantage of being able to remove polyps and obtain biopsies (tiny tissue samples for analysis under a microscope) at the same time of the procedure.
- How much barium do you drink for a barium swallow?
You will be required to drink about 1⅟₂ cups of barium solution (a chalky drink with the consistency (but not the flavor) of a milkshake). Children will drink less. The barium can be seen on an x-ray, as it passes through the digestive tract. The barium procedure may take about 30 minutes to finish.
- What type of enema is best for impaction?
Some of the most commonly used enemas include saline solution enema, milk, and molasses, a mineral of enema (which works like lubricants, thereby making it easier for patients to pass impacted feces), as well as Fleet’s Phosphosoda Enema (which, as a brand-name enema, uses a salt called sodium phosphate to keep water in the intestines).
- What is a barium enema used to diagnose?
A barium enema may be carried out to diagnose structural or functional abnormalities of the large intestine, including the rectum. These abnormalities may include ulcerative colitis, ulcerations, and inflammation of the large intestine.