Your doctor can choose from many imaging tests to help them diagnose and keep track of your Crohn’s disease. One of the most common is an abdominal X-ray. It helps them see parts of your digestive tract that other tests can’t show.
But these aren’t ordinary X-rays. They use a process called fluoroscopy. You’ll get either a drink or an enema that contains barium or iodine. Both of these substances stick to the walls of your intestines and make them easier to see than on a regular X-ray. The X-ray is beamed to a special machine that converts it to a video and sends it to a TV-like monitor. This lets your radiologist follow the barium or iodine through your GI tract.
Preparing for Upper and Lower GI Exams
Preparation for upper GI or lower GI tests usually includes following a low- fiber diet for 2 to 3 days before the test, not smoking for 12 to 24 hours before the test, not taking certain medications for up to 24 hours before the test, and not eating anything for 12 hours before the test. Your doctor will give you specific instructions. Never stop taking any medications without first discussing it with your doctor.
Additional preparation for the lower GI test usually includes taking oral laxatives and an enema the night before the test. Carefully follow the pre-test directions given to you by your doctor.
What Happens After the Tests?
You should be able to go back to your usual activities and normal diet immediately after your GI tests. Unless your doctor tells you to restrict fluids for another medical condition, drink plenty of water or juice -- eight to 10 glasses each day for 3 days -- to get the barium out of your colon.
It’s normal to have a white or light stool for up to 3 days after the test The barium enema you get during a lower GI test could leave you feeling weak or dizzy. Ask your doctor what else you might expect to feel after the test.
When Will I Get Results?
Probably within a day or two. It doesn’t take all that long to develop the X-ray film, but your doctor will have to look at it and decide what the results say, then contact you.
Are There Risks for GI Tests?
There’s almost no risk with the upper and lower GI tests, unless you have to repeat them several times within a few months. Although radiation exposure from these tests is minimal, it’s still more than for standard still X-rays. But the technologists will take steps to minimize your exposure.
Other risks include:
- Infection (very low risk with both the upper and lower GI tests)
- Tearing the intestinal wall during a lower GI test. This is rare, but if it happens, you may need surgery.
Who Shouldn’t Get GI Tests?
If you have an existing blockage or tear in the intestinal wall.
If you’re pregnant or think you might be pregnant. Talk to your doctor about other tests that can be more safely performed to diagnose your problem during pregnancy.
When to Call Your Doctor After GI Tests
Call the doctor if you have:
- A temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This could be a sign of infection and should be treated right away.
- A marked change in bowel habits, like no bowel movement in 2 or 3 days after the test. It’s normal for your poop to be white or light colored for up to 3 days after the test.
- Worse pain
- Unusual drainage from your rectum
- Any symptoms that cause concern
- Questions about the test or the results