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Prep for Barium Enema

X-ray image of the colon

A barium enema has been scheduled for you on: ____________________ at ____:____

This test takes about an hour. It will help find out if a problem in your colon is causing your symptoms.

During the exam

The exam is an X-ray that is taken of your colon. You will be asked to wear a gown and lie down on the exam table. Before the X-ray is taken, the healthcare provider or radiology tech will put an enema tube into your rectum. Liquid barium will be sent through this tube into your colon. You may feel that you need to have a bowel movement. You may also feel pressure or cramping in your stomach.

A fluoroscope machine lets the radiologist see the barium as it flows into your colon. After the first set of X-rays is done, you will be asked to go to the bathroom to get rid of the barium. Then more X-rays will be taken of your empty colon. As the X-rays are being taken, the radiologist will ask you to move into different positions. He or she may also press down on your stomach.

Important

Be sure to tell the healthcare provider and radiology tech if:

  • You may be pregnant

  • You are allergic to any medicines, dyes (contrast material), or foods

  • You are severely constipated or have a blockage in your bowel

How to get ready for the exam

2 days before the exam

To get ready for this test, your colon must be as empty as possible. To do this:

  • Eat light meals on these days. Do not have milk or dairy products.

  • You can have clear liquids as desired.

1 day before the exam

  • You can have only clear liquids. Do not have any solid food or dairy products.

  • Do not drink anything after midnight.

  • You may need to take a strong laxative, suppository, or enema to help empty your colon. This causes loose stools that will stop by the next afternoon or evening.

Day of the exam

  • Do not eat or drink anything before the exam.

After the exam

  • Sometimes constipation may happen after a barium enema. If this happens to you, take a mild laxative. If that doesn’t help, contact your healthcare provider.

  • Drink extra liquids to replace what you lost and to flush your system.

  • You will pass barium mixed with stool for 1 or 2 days.

  • Eat lightly after the exam.

  • Take your regular medicines.

Symptoms after a barium enema

You may not have any problems or symptoms. But you can have:

  • Bloating and nausea

  • Pain in your abdomen

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Severe cramping, pain, or swelling in your abdomen

  • No bowel movement after 2 days, especially if you took a laxative

  • Not passing gas

  • Fever

  • Vomiting that happens several times

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Neil Grossman MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
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