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Barium Enema

What is a Barium Enema?

A barium enema is a diagnostic procedure that uses a contrast agent called barium and X-ray images are taken of your lower gastrointestinal tract. If you are receiving an air contrast barium enema, air will also be used as a second contrast agent. These exams can detect problems within your lower digestive system, including the large intestine (large bowel), colon and rectum. The exam can help your doctor identify problems with minimal risk and discomfort to you.

How Do I Prepare for the Exam?

Your doctor will provide you with instructions for preparing for the examination. Two or three days before the exam, you will be instructed to eat a "low residue" diet consisting of liquids, low-fat and finely-crushed foods.

You will be asked to drink only clear liquids the night before the exam and to refrain from drinking or eating anything after midnight the night before the exam.

Your doctor will prescribe a strong laxative (Golytley) to clear your lower tract the day before the exam. For the exam to be successful, your lower digestive tract must be completely empty. Any residue will show up on the images and could be mistaken for an abnormality in the colon or rectum.

You must be registered in the hospital computer before the exam can be done. Our registration staff may call you in advance to preregister or you may register online. If not, you should first report to registration 30 minutes before your scheduled exam. If you preregistered, you may go directly to the radiology department on the first floor of Building D (1740).

What Will the Exam Be Like?

The barium enema will be performed by a radiologist or the radiology physician's assistant. These professionals specialize in the study of imaging tests such as ultrasound and X-ray images to assure the most accurate results for your exam.

When you arrive for your test, you will change into a hospital gown. Your technologist will gently position you on a special tilting table attached to a fluoroscope (an X-ray machine combined with a television screen). As you lie on your side, a lubricated enema tip will be inserted into your rectum and a liquid barium mixture will be released.

The barium mixture will be observed on the television screen as it flows through your colon. (For air contrast barium enemas, air will also be released into the colon along with the barium.) As the barium fills your colon, you may feel like you need to move your bowel. Let the technologist know if you are having trouble holding the barium. You will be asked to turn from side to side and hold several different positions. After the series of images are completed, you will go to the bathroom to expel the barium. You will have an additional image taken after the barium has been expelled.

What Happens After the Exam?

After the exam, you may be free to return to your normal activities and usual diet unless told otherwise by your physician. It is normal for the barium to give a whitish color to your stool for a day or two.

Barium may cause constipation. You will need to increase your water intake and maybe take a mild laxative such as Milk of Magnesia. If you have trouble with constipation normally, you should consult your physician.

After your study is completed, the radiologist will interpret your exam and send a written report to your physician.

Important Information

Inform the technologist if you may be pregnant. If there is a possibility of pregnancy, a pregnancy test will be ordered before the exam.

If you have questions about your bill, please call our business office at (859) 260-6644. The radiologist's bill is separate from the hospital's. If you have questions regarding your bill from the radiologist, please call 1-877-459-2290.