A barium enema, or lower gastrointestinal (GI) examination, is
an X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon and rectum). The test is
used to help find problems that affect the large intestine.
To make the
intestine visible on an X-ray picture, the colon is filled with a white barium
contrast material. The contrast material is put through a tube
placed in the anus. The barium blocks X-rays, so the barium-filled colon shows
up clearly on the X-ray picture.
A barium enema may be done to
check for the cause of rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. The test may help
find diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulosis. Other problems can also be found during a barium enema, such as a large polyp or colon cancer.