X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon). Barium is introduced gradually into the colon by a rectal tube. Approximate time: 1 - 1.5 hours.
Before the upper and lower GI tests
Please be aware that correct preparation is very important for the upper and lower GI tests to be performed properly. The radiologist will tell you what you need to do to prepare for your specific GI examination.
Preparation usually includes making dietary changes (such as following a low-fiber diet for 2 to 3 days before the test), not smoking for 12 to 24 hours before the test, not taking any medications for 24 hours before the test and not eating anything for 12 hours before the test. Additional preparation for the lower GI test usually includes taking an enema or laxative the night before the test. Please follow the pretest directions carefully and ask questions if you do not understand them.
All examinations are performed and interpreted by registered and licensed technologists and board-certified radiologists.
Please tell the technologist if you have an insulin pump.
During the test
You may be given a mild sedative. You will be positioned on a tilting X-ray table by the technologist and will be secured with straps. For an upper GI test, the table usually starts in a vertical position, with the patient standing. For a lower GI test, the table usually starts in a horizontal position, with the patient lying on his or her side. The table will be tilted at various angles during the test to help spread the barium solution throughout the body so different views can be seen on the fluoroscope. During the test, the technologist may put slight pressure on your abdomen to get a clearer image on the fluoroscope.
Although the barium solution given in an upper GI test is unpleasant tasting, there is no pain and little discomfort during the procedure. The lower GI test may cause some discomfort, including cramps and a strong urge to have a bowel movement.
After the barium enema is administered in a lower GI test and a few X-rays are taken, you will be helped to the bathroom (or be given a bedpan) and you will be asked to move your bowels to expel as much of the barium as possible. Then you will go back to the X-ray examination room where more X-rays will taken of the barium solution that remains on the lining of the intestine. In some cases, air will be injected slowly into the colon (air contrast barium enema) to provide further contrast on the X-rays in order to detect abnormalities.