What is a barium enema?
A barium enema is a procedure that involves administering a barium enema to outline the large intestine (colon and rectum) and then taking fluoroscopy x-rays of the area.
A tube is inserted into your rectum so that the barium solution can flow into your colon.
If you are having a single-contrast study, the barium will be left in your colon while the x-rays are taken. If you have a double-contrast study, the barium will be drained out, leaving a layer clinging to the colon walls. Your colon will then be filled with air before the x-rays are taken. This method can be useful for seeing a more detailed view of your colon’s inner surface.
You will usually be put on a special diet for a few days before the procedure. Often this restricts you to clear liquids. This is important, as your bowels must be empty to allow the inner lining of the large intestine to be seen clearly on the x-rays.
You may feel uncomfortable after the procedure and your stools may be paler than usual at first. These symptoms should soon resolve. However, if you experience fever, rectal bleeding or severe abdominal pain, or you do not have a bowel movement within a few days, see a doctor immediately.
Who needs a barium enema?
A barium enema may be recommended for you if you have anemia, weight loss or gastrointestinal symptoms. It can be used to identify swellings, obstructions, abnormalities or narrowing in the large intestine. It’s helpful in diagnosing or tracking inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.