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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

  • Switch to a liquid diet 2 days before your exam.

  • Do not eat or drink 8 hours before your exam.

  • Use a suppository, laxative, or enema if you have been instructed to do so.

Let the technologist know about the following:

  • 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: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/7/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 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.