What should I expect during defecography?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
If you have fecal incontinence (unintended passage of stool), your doctor may suggest a number of different tests. To evaluate the anatomy and functioning of your pelvic floor muscles and rectum, or if an obstruction in the colon is suspected, you may undergo a specialized x-ray exam. These exams go by different names: defecography, dynamic defecography, or evacuation proctography. Before your appointment, you clean out your colon as follows: One hour before the exam, you may be asked to drink some barium solution.

Just before the exam, a technician will insert a substance with the consistency of stool that is visible on x-ray. Then the technician takes x-ray video images as you cough, squeeze your buttocks, strain, and defecate on a special commode. This test can reveal abnormal positioning of the rectum or relaxation of sphincter muscles. The exam is not painful, but you may have an uncomfortable feeling of needing to have a bowel movement.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.