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Barium Enema

A barium enema is an x-ray exam of your rectum and colon. This test helps your doctor detect problems such as blockages, tumors, polyps, or other disorders.

Woman lying on table under X-ray machine. Health care provider wearing led vest is preparing to take X-ray.
X-rays will be taken during your exam.

Before your test

  • Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for this test.

  • One the day before your test, you will likely be asked not to eat and to only drink clear liquids. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before, although you may take your regularly prescribed oral medications in the morning with a small amount of water.

  • You may also be told to take a laxative or an over-the-counter enema preparation. Follow your doctor's instructions.

Let the technologist know about the following before the test:

  • Symptoms you’re having

  • Allergies

  • Any previous surgery

  • Medications you take

  • If you're pregnant or think you may be

During your test

  • A tube is inserted into your rectum.

  • Your colon is filled with barium (a liquid that improves the X-ray images).

  • You will be asked to move into different positions and hold your breath while x-rays are taken.

  • Pressure may be applied to your belly to get the best images.

  • The last X-ray will be taken after you go to the bathroom.

After your test

  • Drink plenty of water to relieve constipation you may have after the test.

  • Your stool may appear white or light for a day or two.

  • Your doctor will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up visit or over the phone.

  • Your next appointment is: ________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/28/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.