Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract radiography, also called a lower GI or barium enema, is an X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
Lower GI exams are performed at the Yeatts Radiology Center on Emerson Hospital’s main campus in Concord.
Why a lower GI X-ray exam is performed
A lower GI exam can help your doctor find the cause of such symptoms as:
- Rectal bleeding
- Changes in bowel activity
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
This test can detect signs of problems such as cancerous growths, diverticula (small pouches in the intestinal lining), fistula (an abnormal opening in the digestive tract), polyps and ulcers.
Preparing for a lower GI X-ray exam
Preparing for lower GI testing usually includes:
- Following a low-fiber diet for two to three days before the test
- Eating no solid foods, drinking only clear liquids (like juice, tea, black coffee, cola or broth) and avoiding dairy products the day before the test
- Not smoking for 12 to 24 hours before the test
- Not taking certain medications, especially antacids, for up to 24 hours before the test
- Not eating anything for 12 hours before the test
Your doctor will give you specific instructions. You can take your usual prescribed oral medications with limited amounts of water. Never stop taking any medications without first discussing it with your doctor.
What the lower GI X-ray exam involves
When you arrive for your appointment, you’ll be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You’ll also be asked to remove any jewelry, eyeglasses and any metal objects that might interfere with the X-ray images.
During your procedure, you’ll lie on your side on an exam table while barium or an iodine-containing liquid is gradually introduced into your colon through a tube inserted into your rectum. When this contrast material fills your colon, a number of X-rays will be taken from various angles, enabling the radiologist to see growths, polyps or areas that are narrowed.
The barium enema exam typically takes 30 to 60 minutes.
After your procedure
After the exam, most of the barium will be removed from your colon through the enema tube. When the tube is removed, you'll be able to use the toilet to expel any remaining barium and air.
Once you’re done, you can resume a regular diet and take your normal oral medications unless told otherwise by your doctor. You may be able to return to normal activities immediately after the examination.
You’ll be encouraged to drink additional water for 24 hours after the examination.
Your stools may appear white for a day or so as your body clears the barium liquid from your system.
Some people experience constipation after a barium enema. If you don’t have a bowel movement for more than two days after your exam or are unable to pass gas rectally, call your physician right away. You may need an enema or laxative to help eliminate the barium.
Pre-registering for your lower GI exam
If you pre-register for your exam, you can bypass the registration process on the morning of your appointment and go directly to the Radiology Department.
To pre-register, please call Patient Registration at 1-978-287-3062 the day before your appointment. Patient Registration is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
If you choose not to pre-register, please arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment and report to Patient Registration. When you enter the main entrance, Patient Registration is on your left. Please sign your name on the clipboard and have your insurance card available. You will be processed as quickly as possible and sent to your scheduled appointment.
To obtain test results
By law, this requires a signed medical records release form and photo identification. To make a request, please call:
To Schedule an appointment
To schedule an appointment for a bone density test, please call 978-287-3003