Barium Enema

What is Barium Enema?

A barium enema is a diagnostic procedure that uses a contrast material called barium to produce X-ray images of the large intestine, including the colon, rectum, and anus. It is used to help detect or diagnose changes or abnormalities in the large intestine.

Who conducts Barium Enema procedure?

The barium enema procedure is typically performed by a radiology technician or radiologist specializing in medical imaging. They have the expertise and training to accurately conduct and interpret the test results.

Why Barium Enema is done?

The doctors may advise a barium enema to identify reasons behind signs and symptoms like:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Persistent constipation

The doctor may ask for a barium enema X-ray to find out issues like:

  • Unusual growths (polyps) as a part of checking for colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis

Barium Enema Procedure

Before a barium enema, specific instructions will be given to the patient, which may include:

  • Avoiding solid foods and dairy.
  • Limiting intake to clear fluids such as water and juices.
  • Temporarily discontinuing certain medications as advised.
  • Taking laxatives to ensure bowels are empty before the procedure.

The patient will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any clothing or jewelry that may interfere with the X-ray images.

During the procedure

  • The patient will lie on an examination table, usually on the side, with knees bent towards chest. The table will be positioned beneath an X-ray machine.
  • The doctor gently inserts a small tube into the anus and a barium liquid will be slowly injected through the tube into the large intestine. Barium is a contrast material that coats the lining of the intestine, making it visible on X-ray images. The X-ray machine will capture images as the barium fills large intestine.
  • The patient is asked to change positions or hold breath briefly to obtain different views.
  • Sometimes a small amount of air is delivered into the colon to expand which improves the visualization of certain areas. This is known as a double contrast barium enema.
  • Once the necessary images have been obtained, the tube will be gently removed from the rectum.
  • The barium enema test typically takes around 30-60 minutes to complete.

After the procedure

After the barium enema, the patients may experience temporary side effects such as bloating, gas, or mild discomfort. These symptoms typically resolve on their own within a few hours. It is important to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that contain a lot of fiber (e.g., whole grain, vegetables, fruit) to help flush out the barium and regulate bowel movements. The patient may have white stools for a few days.

Although barium enemas are considered generally safe, there are rare complications that may arise, including:

  • Allergic reaction to the barium solution.
  • Perforation (tear) in the lining of the colon.
  • Severe constipation (impaction) or obstruction caused by the hardening of barium.


The result can be positive or negative.

Negative Result: A barium enema exam is considered negative when no abnormalities in the colon exist.

Positive Result: A barium enema exam is considered positive if the radiologist detects abnormalities in the colon. In case of a positive result, the doctor recommends other tests, like a colonoscopy.


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