An air contrast study involves filling the colon with barium and then draining it out. Only a thin coating of barium is left on the walls of the colon. Air is then filled into the colon, which gives a clear view of the colon’s inner surface. A colon air contrast test makes use of a barium enema in order to provide a visual overview of the colon. This method is not commonly used today, as progresses in technology have made newer methods available. A colonoscopy is the preferred method of testing nowadays as it can detect smaller cancers and polyps that are usually not detected by an air contrast test. Inflammations of the colon such as diverticulitis, however, can be easily detected using a barium enema.
Detection of inflammation, colorectal cancer or colon polyps becomes possible through an air contrast barium test.
Before an air contrast test of the colon, the doctor usually advises the individual as what can and cannot be consumed prior to the test. Usually, the diet consisting of more liquids than solids is recommended. Sometimes the individual is asked to go on a liquid-only diet. The colon must be empty for the test to be performed properly and as such it is important to follow the doctor’s advice. In some cases, the doctor may also prescribe an enema or laxative to clear out the colon before taking the test.
In the testing room, there will be an X-ray machine that generates video images of a particular area of the body. This machine is positioned behind the individual. First, an X-ray of the abdomen is taken. Then, a lubricated tube is inserted into the anus of the individual. Attached to the tube is a bag filled with a solution of barium sulphate, which is slowly pumped into the colon. After the barium is drained from the colon, air is filled inside it. The barium helps the technician to obtain clear images of the lining of the colon. The individual may be asked to move around so that the barium coats the intestinal lining thoroughly, making it possible to achieve images of the colon from various angles. The individual must stay still and hold his breath while the images are being taken. Cramps and urges to empty the bowel may be experienced, and deep breathing may be done to obtain relaxation and reduce the discomfort.
Once the test has been performed, the individual can take a normal diet once again. Traces of the barium in the colon are eliminated in the following days. Consuming lots of water will help to flush any remaining barium out of the system.
In rare cases, tearing or infection of the walls of the rectum may occur after an air contrast barium test. If an individual faces symptoms such as fever, pain and blood discharge in the stools following the test, a doctor must be consulted at the earliest