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A barium enema is an X-ray imaging test of the lower intestinal tract that uses a contrast solution containing the metallic element barium. The barium solution is delivered through the use of an enema, a process in which liquid is pushed into your rectum through your anus while a technician takes X-ray images of the area. Barium enhances the X-ray images by highlighting certain areas of tissue and allows the radiologist to see your internal organs in motion by tracking the flow of the barium solution through your intestinal tract.

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1. Why Barium Enemas Are Done

Your doctor may order a barium enema if an abnormality in your lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract is suspected. There are various symptoms and health conditions which could prompt your doctor to examine your lower GI tract, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stools
  • A change in your bowel movements
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Diverticulitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Polyps
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Twisted loop of the bowels (volvulus)
  • Ulcerative colitis

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