McLaren Health Care
Barium Enema

Barium Enema

A barium enema X-ray is a diagnostic imaging tool to study your colon, using barium — a liquid that allows the colon to be visualized on X-ray film. The radiologist interprets the X-ray and reports the results to your doctor. Your doctor will talk with you about the results.

Usually, a barium enema is an outpatient procedure. A barium enema may take approximately 45-60 minutes.

Before the Barium Enema

If you know you have any allergy, are taking prescription medications, or are of childbearing age and think you may be pregnant, please inform your doctor and the radiologist prior to the procedure. A bowel cleansing kit with a light diet started the day prior to the exam will be needed. The bowel cleansing kit will need to be purchased from the pharmacy and your doctor will provide you with instruction. This prep is performed to better visualize the colon.

During the Barium Enema

A radiologist performs the exam with a fluoroscope. The technologist inserts a rectal tube, so the barium can flow into the colon. Air may or may not be administered. You may feel cramping and full in your abdomen. Slow, deep breaths will help you relax. During the exam, the machine and X-ray table will move and you will be asked to roll in various positions. After the fluoroscopic exam, additional radiographs will be taken. After the films are reviewed by the radiologist, you will go to the restroom to expel the barium and air. Another film will be taken after you have used the restroom.

After the Barium Enema

Return to your normal diet at home, and increase your fluid intake over the next few days, as directed by your physician. The barium should normally pass through your colon, although your physician may prescribe a laxative. It is normal for you stool to appear white as the barium is expelled from your system. If you do not have a bowel movement in three days, contact your physician.