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What Is Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte Solution Used For?

Using Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte Solution Before a Barium Enema X-Ray Exam

A barium x-ray exam is a medical procedure that allows your healthcare provider to examine your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), using liquid barium and x-rays. Before the exam, barium is used to coat the lining of the GI tract. Because x-rays cannot pass through the barium, the organs -- and any signs of disease -- show up more clearly on the x-rays.
One type of barium x-ray exam is called a barium enema. A barium enema allows your doctor to examine your lower GI tract, specifically the lining of your rectum and colon. A barium enema can be used to diagnose problems in the large intestine, colon, and rectum, such as abnormal growths, polyps, ulcers, and colon cancer (see Barium Enema for more information about this type of medical procedure).
Your colon must be empty for a barium enema to be accurate. Any stool inside the colon may hide important findings. Preparation for a barium enema normally involves diet restriction, such as maintaining a liquid-only diet the day before the procedure. In addition, laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution, are often used to cleanse the bowel prior to the examination.

How Does It Work?

Polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is an osmotic laxative. It works by drawing large amounts of water into the colon, which softens the stool and causes frequent, watery bowel movements. These watery bowel movements flush out the intestines. Electrolytes are added to replace the electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) lost from the body in the watery stool.

Can Children Use It?

Some polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution products are approved to cleanse the bowel prior to a colonoscopy in children as young as six months of age. Other products are only approved for adult use. Check with your healthcare provider about which products are most suitable for use in children.

Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte Solution Information

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