Barium Enema

Definition

Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays . Barium is placed into the bowels through the rectum. This is called an enema. Barium coats the lining of the lower intestines. This makes that area easier to see on an x-ray.

Barium Enema
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

You may have a barium enema to look for problems in your lower intestines. Some things your doctor may be looking for include:

  • Abnormal growths such as polyps and cancers
  • Ulcers
  • Diverticula—small pouches in the wall of the large intestine
  • Thickening of the lining of the large intestine

Possible Complications

Complications are rare. Some may have an allergic reaction to the barium or latex tube used during the test. Talk to your doctor about any allergies you may have.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to latex or barium.

Your intestines must be empty before this test. Your doctor may ask you to:

  • Eat a clear liquid diet.
  • Take laxatives.
  • Use a warm water or over-the-counter enema.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Description of Test

A well-lubricated enema tube will be gently inserted into your rectum. You may be given an injection to relax the rectum. Barium will be inserted through the tube. A small balloon at the end of the tube will be inflated. This balloon keeps the barium inside. You will be moved several times to make sure the barium coats the walls of the colon and rectum. A small amount of air will be inserted through the tube. A series of x-rays will be taken. After this, the enema tube will be removed.

After Test

After the test, you:

  • Will be shown to the bathroom to pass the barium and may be given a laxative
  • May feel mild-to-moderate abdominal cramping and may need to wait before driving home
  • Can return to your regular diet unless your doctor tells you not to
  • Can return to regular activities when you feel ready
  • Should drink lots of fluids—barium can cause dehydration
  • May have white or gray stools for 2-3 days after the test due to the barium

How Long Will It Take?

About 1-2 hours

Will It Hurt?

You may feel discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. You may have bloating and severe cramping during the test. You may also feel as if you need to move your bowels.

Results

It may take up to a few days to receive your test results. If the results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend:

  • Follow-up testing
  • Treatment options

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Severe pain
  • Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement for two or more days after the exam
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Bloody stools

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

Revisions

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to act quickly. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. Call 9-1-1 immediately, and chew an aspirin while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.