Barium enema is a kind of ad hoc procedure to a regular x-ray, in order to get a clear image of the large intestine.
[Read: What is Barium Enema?]
X-rays are unable to penetrate the metal barium. Hence, a thick white liquid containing the metal barium is introduced into the colon area. After the colon in lined with the barium, the x-ray is captured.
Before a barium enema can be carried out the colon needs to be emptied of all faeces. This can be done using strong laxatives or then enema.
Once the colon is emptied, a patient is readied for the barium enema. A viscous white liquid containing large portions of barium is introduced into the colon, through a small tube. This tube is inserted into the anus and pushed a few centimetres up. The liquid is then passed through this tube from where it reaches various parts of the colon. In order for the liquid to reach through the walls of the colon, the patient is requested to take and hold onto various positions, namely those of lying on the back and on the sides.
[Read: Risks doing Barium Enema]
Spreading the Barium
Once the barium reaches all parts of the colon, the patient might get the feeling of being full or sometimes even wanting to pass a stool. Stomach cramps might also appear and may vary in intensity. In order for the liquid barium to have higher chances of reaching every portion of the colon, an injection might be given. This injection is mainly of a drug that will relax the wall muscles of the colon, enabling the liquid to flow more easily. On some occasions, to capture an even more lucid image of the colon, air is passed into the colon through the enema tube. This air eggs the barium liquid further into the colon, spreading evenly throughout. The air present in the colon tends to cause some temporary discomfort for the patient, which lasts for a short while.
X-ray of Barium Lined Colon
Once the barium liquid is well spread through the crevices and folds of the colon, numerous x-rays are taken. Different angels and areas of the colon are captured. Since the x-rays are unable to penetrate the barium, the colon shows up clearly lined on an x-ray. It is then rendered easy to check for any malfunction or disease in the large intestine.
The entire procedure lasts between 20 minutes to half an hour.
[Read: Why Barium Enema is done]
Post a barium enema, a patient might feel a small degree of dizziness, if the muscle relaxant was injected. In such cases driving or any other activity that requires concentration must be avoided till the feeling passes, which is usually a couple of hours. In addition normal feelings of wanting to pass stools might be present for a short while. A patient can resume a completely normal diet almost immediately post the barium enema procedure. It is advisable that plenty of fluids be consumed in order for all the barium to be flushed out of the system. The stools might appear white for about three days post the procedure. This usually lasts till all the barium has been removed from the body.
Barium enema is slowly being replaced by a procedure called colonoscopy, where a tiny camera is used to see the insides of the colon.
Read more articles on Barium Enema.
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