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General Radiology

Barium Enema 

What is a Barium Enema?

In order to view the intestine on an x-ray, the colon is filled with a contrast material containing barium.  This is done by introducing the contrast material through a tube inserted into the anus.  The barium blocks x-rays, causing the barium-filled colon to show up clearly on x-rays.  A Barium enema is a rectal injection of barium contrast that coats the lining of the colon and rectum and images are produced using a special form of x-ray called fluoroscopy.  Air introduced into the large bowel may be used to give a double- contrast technique.

Fluoroscopy makes it possible to see internal organs in motion.  When the lower GI tract is coated in barium, the radiologist is able to view and access the anatomy and function of the colon and rectum.

What are some common uses of this procedure?

A barium enema is done to:
-Identify inflammation of the intestinal wall.

-Monitor progress of a disease.

-Discover problems with the structure of the large intestine, such as narrowed areas (strictures) or pockets or sacs (diverticula) in the intestinal wall.

-Help correct a condition called ileocoloc (intussusception), in which the end of a child's small intestine protrudes into the large intestine.

-Evaluate pain, blood in stool, or altered bowel habits.

-Evaluate other problems such as anemia or unexplained weight loss.


How do I prepare for this test?

Purchase one bottle of Miralax (238g), 4 Dulcolax tablets, and a 64oz bottle of Gatorade from the pharmacy.  A clear liquid diet may include jello, Gatorade, popsicles, ginger ale, tea and coffee without milk.

The day before the exam:
-Do not eat any solid foods all day and night
-Drink only clear liquids for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
-Take 2 Dulcolax tablets at 10am.
-At 4:00 pm mix the entire bottle of Miralax (238g) with the 64oz bottle of Gatorade until completely dissolved.  Drink an 8oz glass every 10-15 minutes until the solution is gone.
-Take 2 more Dulcolax tablets at 10pm
- Continue to drink plenty of clear liquids.
-Nothing to eat or drink after midnight.

The day of the exam:
-Nothing to eat or drink.
-Please consult with your physician before stopping prescribed medication.
-Please arrive 15 minutes prior to the exam time to allow for registration.


How is a Barium Enema performed?

You will be asked to change into a hospital gown for your comfort.  A licensed radiologic technologist and a board certified radiologist guide the patient thru the Barium Enema.  

While you are lying on your side, a well lubricated enema tube will be inserted gently into your rectum.  A small balloon on the enema tip may be inflated to help you hold the barium. The barium contrast material is them allowed to flow slowly into your colon.

The radiologist will observe the flow of the barium through your colon on a fluoroscope, a device that projects radiographic images in a movie-like sequence onto a monitor.

You will be asked to turn to different positions and the table may be tilted slightly to help the flow of barium through your colon.

The radiologist may also press gently on your abdomen with his or her hand or a plastic paddle to help move the barium through your intestines.

If a double-contrast study is ordered, the barium will be drained out and your colon will be filled with air.


What will I experience after the procedure?

After the exam, most of the barium will be removed from your colon through the enema tube.  When the tube is removed, you will be able to use the toilet to expel additional barium and air. 

Occasionally the barium remaining in the colon hardens, causing constipation.  To decrease the risk of impaction, drink extra fluids following the procedure.   Any abdominal cramping usually ends quickly, and you'll be able to return to your usual diet and activities.

Our board certified radiologist will interpret your exam and send the report to your physician within 24 hours.