WHAT IS A BARIUM ENEMA?
A barium enema is an examination to check the large intestine. During an enema, liquid is injected into the rectum using a small tube. For a barium enema, a barium solution is injected to help produce clear x-ray images of the large intestine. Barium enemas are commonly performed for patients with severe abdominal pain, bleeding or other gastrointestinal symptoms. The procedure can help your doctor identify abnormal growths (polyps) or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns and Colitis).
How to prepare for a barium enema
Because barium enemas are specialized procedures of the gastrointestinal tract, preparation is needed. The day before your procedure, please follow this food and liquid schedule:
- Breakfast: Clear liquid diet of water, fruit juices without pulp, soft drinks, broth, gelatin, black coffee or tea. Do NOT eat solid foods.
- Lunch: Clear liquid diet of water, fruit juices without pulp, soft drinks, broth gelatin, black coffee or tea. Do NOT eat solid foods.
- 1pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 2pm: drink one bottle (300ml) of Magnesium Citrate (over the counter)
- 3pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 4pm: take 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) of Castor Oil (over the counter)
- 5pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 6pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 7pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 8pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
- 9pm: drink one full 8-ounce glass of water
The day of your procedure, please insert one Bisacodyl (Dulcolax) rectal suppository (over the counter) at 6am. Retain the suppository for 15 minutes. Please continue your medications as prescribed by your doctor. You may drink black coffee and water on the morning of the examination. Please also:
- Bring a copy of the order for the procedure from your referring physician.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You will be asked to change into a gown.
- Women should always inform their doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
Download the barium enema preparation guide.
What to expect
Typically, a barium enema exam takes about 45 minutes. You will first have a normal x-ray to ensure the colon is emptied. Then, during your exam, the technologist and interventional radiologist will ask you to lie on a specialized x-ray table. Once you are positioned, you will receive the enema with the barium solution through a small, lubricated tube inserted into the rectum. During the procedure, you may experience some abdominal cramping. You may be asked to hold your breath periodically; this helps produce clearer images. The technologist may ask you to move to various positions to ensure barium coats the entire area.
When your examination is over, you may resume your normal daily activities unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Most of the barium solution will be removed by the tube. One of our board-certified interventional radiologists will review the images and send a report to your physician.