Barium Enema

A barium enema has been ordered for you by your caregiver to check out (evaluate) your large intestine (colon). This test helps to evaluate the large bowel and rectum for the problems which may have brought you to your caregiver. This is also performed as part of a routine physical exam in later years of life and then it is used to search for polyps and lumps (tumors) or other disease processes which could shorten or affect life.


  • Allergies.

  • Medications taken including herbs, eye drops, over-the-counter medications, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

  • History of blood clots (thrombophlebitis).

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Previous or existing colon problems.

  • Other health problems.

Let your technologist know if you were unable to complete the preparations for your test or unable to follow the dietary instructions.


Follow your instructions for test preparation so it will not need rescheduling. Try to follow instructions carefully as this will clean out your colon and improve the quality of your X-rays. A liquid diet may be required for a few days before testing. No food is allowed the night before the test. Suppositories, laxatives, or an enema may be required before testing. This preparation is to empty your colon before the test. Arrive here 60 minutes before check in or as directed. The actual test takes about an hour.


A small tube is inserted into your rectum. This has a tip on the end with a balloon that can be inflated. The balloon is used to help you retain the barium that is put into your colon prior to the X-rays. Barium is a white chalky substance which helps outline the inside of your colon on X-ray. You may feel the need to go to the bathroom; however the balloon will help prevent this while X-rays are being taken. During your exam you may be told to shift position and to hold your breath briefly. Some gentle pressure may be applied to your belly (abdomen). All of this is done to obtain better X-rays. Following the X-rays you will be allowed to go the bathroom. Some times air may be put into the colon through the tube to obtain even better X-rays if necessary. These are called air contrast studies. A final X-ray may then be taken. You may leave when the technologist informs you that you are through.

For your comfort during the test:

  • Relax as much as possible during the test.

  • Try to follow your technologist's instructions to speed up the test and make it more effective.


  • You may resume normal activities.

  • Call for your X-ray results as instructed by your caregiver or technologist.

  • Call your caregiver as instructed.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat enough fruits and vegetables to keep your stools soft. The stools may appear lighter for a few days following the test. This is from the barium being passed in the stool.


  • You should become lightheaded or faint.

  • You pass blood from the rectum.

  • You develop abdominal pain.