How It Feels continued...
You may be
embarrassed by the test. You may worry that you won't be able to hold the
barium and that it will leak onto you or onto the table. The doctors who
perform this procedure are accustomed to this and will be able to help
The X-ray table is hard and sometimes cold because
air-conditioning is used to keep the equipment cool. When the barium first
flows into your colon, it may feel a bit cool. As your colon fills, you may
feel a sensation of fullness, moderate cramping, and a strong urge to have a
bowel movement. If an air-contrast study is performed, you may feel increased
cramping or gas pains from having gas pumped into your large intestine. Taking
slow, deep breaths through your mouth can help you relax.
The test may take awhile, so you may want to bring something to do quietly (like a book or magazine to read).
feel tired for a day or so after the test. You should arrange for someone to
drive you home after the test. This test can be exhausting.
There is very little risk of complications from
having a barium enema.
- Occasionally the barium remaining in the colon
hardens, causing severe constipation (impaction) or obstruction. To decrease
the risk of impaction, drink extra fluids following the procedure and, if
your doctor recommends it, take an enema or mild
laxative after the test.
- In rare cases,
barium can cause inflamed areas in the colon called barium
- Perforation of the bowel is a more serious, but very
rare complication. Under the pressure from the barium or air, a weakened
section of the colon may break open, allowing the intestinal contents to spill
into the abdominal cavity. It may occur in people whose bowel wall has been
weakened by intestinal problems, such as inflammatory bowel diseases,
ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease.
Call your doctor immediately if you:
- Have rectal bleeding.
- Have severe
- Develop a fever.
- Do not have a bowel
movement within several days after the test.
A barium enema, or lower
gastrointestinal (GI) examination, is an
X-ray examination of the
large intestine (colon and rectum).
The results of a barium
enema are usually available immediately after the test or within a few
The colon appears normal. See a picture of a
barium enema X-ray .
One or more problems in the colon are
detected, such as:
- A section of colon did not fill with
- An obstruction or narrowing (stricture) in the
- Polyps or growths on the inner wall of the
- Sacs in the colon wall (diverticulosis).
- Structural defects and
inflammation (colitis) of the lining of the colon.
- A narrowed
segment or a twisted loop of bowel, causing an
- Telescoped bowel can be seen in a child, indicating
intussusception. The barium enema may be used as a treatment to return the
bowel to its normal position.
Many conditions can change barium enema test results. Your
doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to
your symptoms and past health.