A barium enema is performed to examine the walls of the colon. During the procedure, a well lubricated enema tube is inserted gently into the rectum. The barium, a radiopaque (shows up on X-ray) contrast medium, is then allowed to flow into the colon. The flow of the barium is monitored by the health care provider on an X-ray fluoroscope screen (like a TV monitor). The test is used to detect colon cancer. The barium enema may also be used to diagnose and evaluate the extent of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Review Date: 10/8/2012 Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.