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Barium Enema

How To Prepare continued...

The preparation for a barium enema usually involves a very thorough cleansing of the large intestine, because the colon must be completely clear of stool and gas. Even a small amount of stool can affect the accuracy of the test.

  • For 1 to 3 days before the test, you will usually be on a clear liquid diet.
  • On the day before the test:
    • You should drink very large amounts of noncarbonated clear liquids, unless your doctor has advised you not to.
    • You will then take a combination of laxatives to empty your intestines.
    • You may be asked to take a tap water enema to clean any remaining stool from your colon.
  • On the day of the test, you may need to repeat the enema until the liquid that passes is free of any stool particles. Sometimes a rectal suppository or a commercially prepared enema, such as a Fleet enema, is used instead of a tap water enema.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for this test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

During the test

To make the intestine visible on an X-ray picture, the colon is filled with a contrast material containing barium. This is done by pouring the contrast material through a tube inserted into the anus. The barium blocks X-rays, causing the barium-filled colon to show up clearly on the X-ray picture.

  • You will lie on the X-ray table while a preliminary X-ray film is taken.
  • While you are lying on your side camera.gif, a well-lubricated enema tube will be inserted gently into your rectum. The barium contrast material is then allowed to flow slowly into your colon.
  • A small balloon on the enema tip may be inflated to help you hold in the barium. Tightening your anal sphincter muscle (as if you were trying to hold back a bowel movement) against the tube and taking slow, deep breaths may also help.
  • Occasionally, you may be given an injection of medicine to relieve the cramping.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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