Barium Enema

What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is a fluoroscopic procedure performed to examine the colon.

What can you expect during your barium enema exam?

After you put on your gown, a technologist helps position you on the exam table. An x-ray picture is taken to ensure the bowel is clean. Next, a technologist inserts a small tube into the rectum to inject a mixture of water and barium, which will coat the lining of the colon so that is more visible on the images.

As the barium lines your colon, the radiologist or radiologist assistant uses a small x-ray device called a fluoroscope to capture and display real-time images on a monitor. Barium and possibly air may be administered through the rectal tube to better evaluate the colonic mucosa.

You may be asked to turn from side to side and to hold several different positions.

During the exam, you may feel the need to move your bowel and abdominal pressure or minor cramping. Most people tolerate this mild discomfort easily.

What can you expect after your barium enema exam?

Your stools may appear white for a day after the exam as the barium is removed from your system. If you experience constipation after the exam, call your physician promptly.

How can you prepare for your barium enema exam?

  • Refrain from eating and avoid drinking dairy products the day before your exam.
  • Avoid taking anything by mouth after midnight on the day of your exam. (Usual prescribed oral medication with limited water is okay).
  • Use an enema kit provided for you by the Radiology Department or as instructed by your physician to purchase at a local pharmacy.
  • Inform your physician of medications you are taking, allergies (especially to contrast material), and recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry. You may be asked to remove eye glasses and any other objects that might interfere with the x-ray images.