What is the risk posed by ionising radiation exposure during a barium enema?

  • 2 Replies

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Offline revpete

  • First timers
  • *
  • 1
    • View Profile
Please please please can you advise me. I am due to have a barium enema but my symptoms and pain are all in the upper area around my stomach/liver/gallbladder/pancreas. One symptom is loose stools which I suspect is malabsorption. Can you tell me what the radiation risk will be if they find nothing on the large bowel x-rays then decide I need an upper GI series as well?
Thanks so much.
« Last Edit: 21/04/2009 18:38:34 by chris »


Offline chris

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 5424
  • The Naked Scientist
    • View Profile
    • The Naked Scientists
Hi Judy

I'd advise you firstly to read consultant radiologist Bob Bury's series of articles about medical imaging, X-rays, Barium Enemas and radiation risk. Have a look at these, and then come back with any follow up questions.

Articles about dangers of radiation and screening :

Article about how x-rays work :

Article about CT and nuclear medicine scans :

Article about MRI and Ultrasound studies :


"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception"
 - Groucho Marx
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx


Offline markeric

  • First timers
  • *
  • 2
    • View Profile
I can tell you a bit about radiation risk as well.

The biggest 'authority' arguably is the BEIR committee of the NAS (National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.) - the model that they use currently is that radiation risk follows the 'LNT' model - linear, non-threshold, and cumulative. In other words, no amount of radiation is too small to increase your risk, the risk is twice as much (approximately) for 2 of the same exams or twice the radiation, and each time you get an exam, the risk goes up incrementally.

As with any model though of course, it's incorrect...it just comes down to which is the 'best' model out there so far...and the BEIR committee and many others go with the LNT model, at least for now.

You can find their report online via google books I think.

Finally, there are websites and programs that let you track your total radiation exposure from both medical and background sources (e.g. 'radiation passport' for iphone/ipod, or newbielink:http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/introduction/risk.htm [nonactive] among others).

There was a famous paper in Nov 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine by Brenner and Hall that estimated, that if you take into account current CT usage rages, up to 1.5 to 2% of all cancers in the US are/will be attributable to CT radiation specifically. Some believe that the number of CT's currently being performed has passed the positive benefit-risk balance (others obviously strongly disagree).
« Last Edit: 19/04/2009 16:31:28 by markeric »