Lower GI Series/Barium Enema

What is Lower gastrointestinal (GI) series?

A lower GI series also know as a barium enema is a procedure in which a doctor uses x-rays and a chalky liquid called barium to view your large intestine. The barium will make your large intestine more visible on an x-ray.

The two types of Lower GI series are:

• single-contrast Lower GI series, which uses only barium

• double-contrast or air-contrast lower GI series, which uses both barium and air for a clearer view of your large intestine


Why do doctors use Lower GI series?

A Lower GI series can help a doctor find the cause of:

• bleeding from your anus

• changes in your bowel activity

•  chronic diarrhea

• pain in your abdomen

• unexplained weight loss


A Lower GI series can also show:

• cancerous growths

• diverticula

• a fistula

• polyps

• ulcers


How do I prepare for a Lower GI series?

Your preparation instructions and appointment details for your lower GI series will be mailed to you by the TBRHSC x ray department.


How do doctors perform a Lower GI series?

An x-ray technician and a radiologist perform a lower GI series at a hospital or an outpatient centre. You do not need anesthesia. The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.

For the procedure, you’ll be asked to lie on a table while the radiologist inserts a flexible tube into your anus and fills your large intestine with barium. The radiologist prevents barium from leaking from your anus by inflating a balloon on the end of the tube. You may be asked to change position several times to evenly coat the large intestine with the barium. If you are having a double-contrast lower GI series, the radiologist will inject air through the tube to inflate the large intestine.

During the procedure, you may have some discomfort and feel the urge to have a bowel movement. You will need to hold still in various positions while the radiologist and technician take x-ray images and possibly an x-ray video, called fluoroscopy.

The radiologist or technician will deflate the balloon on the tube when the imaging is complete. Most of the barium will drain through the tube. You will push out the remaining barium into a bedpan or nearby toilet. A health care professional may give you an enema to flush out the rest of the barium.


What should I expect after a Lower GI series?

After a Lower GI series, you can expect the following:

• You may have cramping in your abdomen and bloating during the first hour after the procedure.

• You may resume most normal activities after leaving the hospital or outpatient center.

• For several days, your stools may be white or light colored from the barium in your large intestine.

• A health care professional will give you instructions on how to care for yourself after the procedure. The instructions will explain how to flush the remaining barium from your large intestine. You should follow all instructions.

The radiologist will read the x-rays and send a report of the findings to your doctor.


What are the risks of a Lower GI series?

The risks of a Lower GI series include:

• constipation from the barium enema—the most common complication of a Lower GI series

• an allergic reaction to the barium

• intestinal obstruction

• leakage of barium into your abdomen through a tear or hole in the lining of the large intestine


Seek care right away

If you have any of the following symptoms after a Lower GI series, seek medical care right away:

• bloody bowel movements or bleeding from your anus

• fever

• inability to pass gas

• severe constipation

• severe pain in your abdomen