A Barium Enema shows an outline of the lower colon on a plain X-Ray film, by way of Barium as a contrast medium instilled into the rectum. It is used to identify irregularities such as rectal tumours or inflammation.

How the Test is Performed

A Barium Enema is an X-Ray of the lower colon, using Barium, a non-toxic substance, as a contrast medium. A thin tube is inserted into the patient’s rectum and Barium, a white liquid which shows up on the X-Ray, is instilled. The lining of the rectum and sigmoid (lower) colon is outlined on the X-Ray, and any irregularities in the normal smooth outline are revealed.

Medical Conditions and Symptoms

A Barium Enema may be requested by your doctor to exclude an abnormality of the rectum or lower colon, such as a polyp or tumour. Rectal tumours may be detected on a simple rectal examination (with a gloved finger) but sometimes a Barium enema is needed to examine higher up the rectum. Tumours of the bowel may cause unexplained weight loss, a change in bowel habit such as new onset of diarrhoea or constipation, a feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowels, known as tenesmus, or rectal bleeding, whether visible or microscopic (see Faecal Occult Blood test).

Test Results Explained

The images (X-Rays) from a Barium Enema test are carefully looked at by a Radiologist, who will then issue a written report to the doctor who ordered the test. Ocassionally, further tests may be recommended.

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Also Known As

  • Lower GI contrast study
  • Colon X-Ray



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