Lower GI Tract X-ray (Barium Enema)

Lower GI XrayLower gastrointestinal (GI) tract X-ray, also called a lower GI or barium enema, is an exam of the large intestine, also known as the colon. This includes the right or ascending colon, the transverse colon, the left or descending colon, 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 called barium or a water soluble iodinated contrast.

Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion. When the lower gastrointestinal tract is filled with barium, the radiologist is able to view and assess the anatomy and function of the rectum, colon and sometimes part of the lower small intestine.

Your doctor may order a lower GI examination to detect:

  • Benign tumors (such as polyps)
  • Cancer
  • Causes of other intestinal diseases
  • Therapeutic treatment of constipation

The procedure is frequently performed to help diagnose symptoms such as:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Blood in stools
  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Suspected blood loss
  • Abdominal pain

Images of the small bowel and colon also are used to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease, a group of disorders that includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.