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Barium Enema

A barium enema is a test used to help see the outline of the large bowel.

During the test, a white liquid called barium is passed into your bowel through your bottom.

This test is used to look for problems in the large bowel (colon). These problems may include;

  • Inflammation
  • Narrowing of the colon
  • Tumors
  • Small fleshy lumps
  • Pouches in the bowel 
  • Bowel cancer

The above conditions can be detected during a barium enema.

Side effects of barium enema:

  • Laxative side effect such as feeling sick, mild headaches and bloating
  • Barium side effects such as constipation, and diarrhea. Also, in rare cases allergic reactions can occur.
  • Radiation exposure
  • Bowel Perforation

Some of the complications of barium enema:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Drug allergy
  • Barium impaction leading to bowel obstruction
  • Bowel perforation leading to acute peritonitis and shock
  • Dilutional hyponatremia (water intoxication)

A barium enema may be requested by any doctor who thinks you might have a problem with your bowel, including your GP.

The test will usually be carried out at a hospital radiology department by a radiologist or radiographer.

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