An air enema may be performed to diagnose problems with the digestive tract.
An air enema is a type of treatment in which air is injected into the colon and rectum. Doctors perform this type of enema primarily to diagnose problems with the digestive tract. In the use of home enema, treatment can be done by those who seek to relieve pressure in the colon caused by constipation.
When this type of enema is done as a medical procedure, it is usually done on children who are suffering from a condition known as intussusception. The medical disorder is a potentially life-threatening condition where a part of the intestine prolapses, or is expelled, into the adjacent area. Bowel obstruction, fever, inflammation, and shock may occur with intussusception. If this condition is suspected, an air enema may be used to take an x-ray of the colon so that any problems can be seen.
An air enema can be performed in a medical setting.
An air enema can be performed alone; however, in a medical setting, an air-contrast barium enema may be performed instead. Barium is a milky white fluid used as a contrast agent. A lubricated enema tube is placed in the rectum to push the barium mixture into the colon and rectum. The mixture coats the organs, allowing the contours of the colon to be seen more clearly under an X-ray. Air is then introduced, creating a dark background that allows for a cleaner image of the contour of the colon.
Using an enema too often can damage the rectum and colon and is therefore not advisable.
The patient will be moved to different positions to help spread the fluid throughout the colon. Once the condition is confirmed, additional air can be pushed into the rectum, forcing the prolapsed bowel back into its proper position. After the exam, patients can go to the bathroom to remove the barium solution. A double air contrast study can then be done. Using additional X-rays, the procedure inserts a small amount of air back into the rectum to obtain images of the empty colon.
In adults, a medical enema may be used to check for abnormalities such as polyps that could indicate colorectal cancer.
Typically, an intussusception can be revived by this type of enema. If bowel perforation has already occurred, however, surgery is the only available treatment. In adults, a medical enema may also be used to check for abnormalities, such as polyps that could indicate colorectal cancer.
When enemas are performed at home, a bath enema is considered the easiest type to do and least likely to cause additional complications for frequent enema users. Some individuals, however, perform air enemas as a form of colon cleansing. The procedure can be completed by removing the hose from an enema bag. Users then place one end of the hose in their rectum and the other end in their mouths and blow to make the rectum fill with air. A pump-type syringe or enema bulb can also be used to push air instead of water into the colon.
An air enema can cause cramping and bloating.
Whether done at home or in a medical setting, an air enema can cause cramping and bloating. Although rare, the procedure can also cause colon perforation. The concern among healthcare professionals is the lack of evidence supporting the use of air enemas outside of the medical setting. To make sure the procedure is safe and necessary, people can consult a doctor before performing the procedure at home.