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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 examination performed by SMIL evaluates the right or ascending colon, the transverse colon, the left or descending colon, the sigmoid colon and the rectum. The appendix and a portion of the distal small intestine may also be included.
The lower GI uses a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material, also called barium to make it possible to see internal organs in motion. An x-ray of the lower GI tract can help detect:
During the x-ray of your lower GI tract, the SMIL technologist will inject the barium into your colon which in turn will give you’re the sensation that you need to move your bowel. You may feel abdominal pressure or even minor cramping. Most people tolerate the mild discomfort easily. The tip of the enema tube is specially designed to help you hold in the barium. If you are having trouble, let the SMIL technologist or radiologist know.
During the imaging process, you will be asked to turn from side-to-side and to hold several different positions. At times, pressure may be applied to your abdomen.
After the examination, you may be given a laxative or enema to wash the barium out of your system. You can resume a regular diet and take orally administered medications unless told otherwise by your doctor. You may be able to return to a normal diet and activities immediately after the examination. You will be encouraged to drink additional water for 24 hours after the examination.
Your stools may appear white for a day or so as your body clears the barium liquid from your system. Some people experience constipation after a barium enema. If you do not have a bowel movement for more than two days after your exam or are unable to pass gas rectally, call your physician promptly. You may need an enema or laxative to assist in eliminating the barium.
Learn how to prepare for the scan in the x-ray, lower GI tract section.
Find out if this procedure is right for you in the benefits and risks of x-ray, lower GI tract section.
For a downloadable/printable PDF about this exam with preparation instructions click here.