Barium Enema

A barium enema is used to take pictures of your large intestine. Your large intestine is made up of your colon and your rectum. In a barium enema liquid is inserted into the rectum to “light up” your colon for the x-ray pictures so that they will come out better and your doctor can see what is going on in your colon better. The procedure takes about 30 – 60 minutes and you can usually go back to your normal routine right away.

Diagnosing GI Problems

A barium enema helps providers to:

  • Check for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

  • Learn why there is diarrhea, constipation or blood in the stool

  • Diagnose stomach pains or unexplained weight changes

  • Screen for colon cancer (rarely used as a screening tool)

Prepping for Your Procedure

Before the barium enema, you will get directions about how to clean out your colon. During the procedure, you will lie on your side and an enema tube will be placed into your rectum. This tube has a liquid metal in it, called barium sulfate, that will light up parts of your colon so that your doctor can see it better in an X-ray picture.

There are not many risks of a barium enema and they are all very rare. One of the following could happen:

  • There is a small amount of radiation exposure from X-rays, but this is controlled so that the least amount of radiation is used. Pregnant women and children have higher risks from x-ray radiation.
  • You may have an allergic reaction
  • You may have swelling around your colon
  • Another risk is that the enema tube could make a hole in your colon when it is inserted. This is very uncommon.