Double Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE)
In this test, a series of x-rays of the entire colon and rectum are taken after the patient is given an enema - the injection of a liquid through the anus into the large bowel. The enema contains a liquid that contains barium sulfate (a form of the silver-white metallic element barium). At the same time as the enema, air is introduced into the colon. The barium and air help to outline the colon and rectum on the x-rays.
A DCBE is usually recommended every 5 – 10 years.
- It is advisable to keep to the suggested schedule. If colorectal cancer occurs, the earlier it is detected, the more likely a person will survive.
- To help you remember the schedule, ask the person close to you who is good at such things to help you keep track.
Advantages of a DCBE
The advantages of a double contrast barium enema are:
- This test usually allows the doctor to view the rectum and the entire colon.
- Complications are rare.
- No sedation is necessary.
- Less expensive than a colonoscopy.
- Accurate for finding abnormalities, such as narrowed areas or pockets or sacs in the intestinal wall, such as diverticulosis.
Disadvantages of DCBE
The disadvantages of a double contrast barium enema are:
- This test may not detect some small polyps and cancers.
- Thorough cleansing of the colon with a laxative is necessary before the test.
- False-positive results are possible.
- The doctor cannot perform a biopsy or remove polyps during the test.
- Additional procedures such as a colonoscopy are necessary if the test indicates an abnormality.
- Patients may find the test uncomfortable or embarrassing.
- Availability is decreasing. This test is usually only available for patients who cannot undergo a colonoscopy.