A barium enema is an X-ray examination of the large intestine, also known as the colon. The appendix and a portion of the distal small intestine may also be included.
How should I prepare?
Please arrive for your appointment 15 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time. Please bring you insurance card and a form of identification.
To avoid having to reschedule your barium enema exam, you should follow the dietary guidelines as provided to you. It is important that your bowels be thoroughly cleaned for this procedure. Your bowel prep starts the day before the procedure. After the prep, remain near a bathroom as results may occur quickly.
What should I expect?
- The barium enema exam is often scheduled in the morning to reduce the patient's fasting time.
- A radiology technologist and a radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, guide the patient through the barium enema.
- The patient is positioned on the examination table and an X-ray film is taken to make sure the bowel is clean. The radiologist or technologist will then insert a small tube into the rectum and begin to put a mixture of barium and water into the colon. Air may also be injected through the tube to help the barium thoroughly coat the lining of the colon. A series of X-ray images are taken.
- As the barium fills your colon, you will feel the need to move your bowel. You may feel abdominal pressure or even minor cramping. Most people tolerate the mild discomfort easily. The tip of the enema tube is specially designed to help you hold in the barium. If you are having trouble, let the technologist know.
- During the imaging process, you will be asked to turn from side to side and to hold several different positions. At times, pressure may be applied to your abdomen. With air contrast studies of the bowel (air contrast barium enema), the table may be turned into an upright position.
- When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist makes sure that they have all the images they need.
- Once the X-ray images are completed, most of the barium will be emptied through the tube. The patient will then be allowed to go to restroom to finish getting rid of barium and air. In some cases, the technologist may take additional images after you have finished.
- A barium enema is usually completed within 30 to 60 minutes.
- You can resume a regular diet and take orally administered medications unless told otherwise by your doctor. You may be able to return to a normal diet and activities immediately after the exam. You will be encouraged to drink additional water for 24 hours after the examination.
- Your stools may appear white for a day or so as your body clears the barium liquid from your system. Some people experience constipation after a barium enema. If you do not have a bowel movement for more than two days after your exam or are unable to pass gas rectally, call your physician promptly. You may need an enema or laxative to assist in eliminating the barium.
How will I find out my results?
After the procedure, your physician will receive a copy of your results to discuss with you.