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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 problems.

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.

  • On 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 medicine 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

  • Medicines 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 allows the radiologist to see what the inside of your bowel looks like with the use of X-ray images. Air is also usually placed into your bowel through the tube to allow for better visualization.

  • 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: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Last Review Date: 5/27/2015
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