What is a barium enema? What does it screen for?

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Barium Enema, also known as Lower gastrointestinal series and Lower GI series, is an X-Ray of the large intestine, specifically the colon and the rectum. The X-ray is done on an empty colon to obtain clear pictures, and, hence, the patients are required to empty their bowels before undergoing the procedure. Giving the patient laxatives or plenty of liquids to drink before the test helps clear the bowels. In a few cases, this can also be done through "enema". After emptying the bowels, the colon of the patient is filled with barium. The Barium Enema test mainly screens for colon cancer and ulcerative colitis. It may also be recommended for patients suffering from bowel disorders like severe constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in stools. The test is mostly safe, but might be risky for pregnant women and anyone sensitive to radiation. Nowadays, the test is replaced by the colonoscopy.