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Barium Enema

Understanding Barium Enema

A barium enema is a diagnostic procedure that uses a contrast agent called barium and x-rays to obtain pictures of your lower gastrointestinal tract. If you are receiving an air contrast barium enema, air will also be used as a second contrast agent. These exams can detect problems within your lower digestive system, including the large intestine (large bowel), colon and rectum. The exam can help your doctor identify problems with minimal risk and discomfort to you.

Register for the Exam

Pre-register online before your exam.  If you choose not to pre-register, arrive at the hospital 30 minutes before your appointment time to fill out registration forms. 

Prepare for the Exam

Two or three days before the exam, you will be instructed to eat a "low residue" diet consisting of liquids, low-fat and finely-crushed foods and drink only clear liquids the night before the exam. Refrain from drinking or eating anything after midnight the night before the exam.

 A strong laxative will be prescribed to clear your lower tract the day before the exam. For the exam to be successful, your lower digestive tract must be completely empty. Any residue will show up on the x-rays and could be mistaken for an abnormality in the colon or rectum.

What Will the Exam Be Like?

When you arrive for your test, you will change into a hospital gown. Your technologist will gently position you on a special tilting table attached to a fluoroscope (an x-ray machine combined with a television screen). As you lie on your side, a lubricated enema tip will be inserted into your rectum and a liquid barium mixture will be released.

The barium mixture will be observed on the television screen as it flows through your colon.  As the barium fills your colon, you may feel like you need to move your bowel. Let the technologist know if you are having trouble holding the barium. You will be asked to turn from side to side and hold several different positions. After the series of x-rays is completed, you will go to the bathroom to expel the barium. You will have an additional x-ray taken after the barium has been expelled.

After the Exam

You may return to your normal activities and usual diet unless told otherwise by your physician. It is normal for the barium to give a whitish color to your stool for a day or two.

Barium may cause constipation. Increase your water intake and maybe take a mild laxative such as Milk of Magnesia. If you have trouble with constipation normally, you should consult your physician.

After your study is completed, the radiologist will interpret your films and send a written report to your physician.

Important Information

Inform the technologist if you may be pregnant. If there is a possibility of pregnancy, a pregnancy test will be ordered before the exam.

If you have questions about your bill, please call Patient Accounts at the appropriate number listed in our phone directory. The radiologist's bill is separate from the hospital's.

For More Information

For more information on Baptist Health Corbin's diagnostic imaging services, phone (606) 528-1212 ext. 1142 or 1143.