A Barium Enema is most frequently used to screen for colorectal cancer and bowel diseases. It is helpful for determining the cause of bleeding, pain, bowel obstruction, or changes in bowel habits. The test may be modified for a Double-Contrast Barium Enema. This test uses a fluoroscope to view inside the large intestine to provide a better view of the mucous membrane.
A barium enema is an outpatient procedure that is performed at a doctor’s office, an outpatient radiology center, or a hospital’s radiology department. The test does not require sedation or anesthesia. Preparation instructions for a barium enema generally consist of methods to empty or clean your bowel prior to the test including the use of laxatives, enemas, or a liquid diet. Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions.
You will wear an examination gown for your barium enema. You will lie on your side for the procedure. An initial X-ray is taken prior to receiving the barium.
The barium will be gently inserted through a well-lubricated tube placed in your anus. Barium is a substance that shows up on X-rays. Air may be inserted to open the folds of your colon to provide a better view. You may be asked to change positions during the procedure to enable different views.
After a series of X-rays are taken, the enema tube is carefully removed. You will go to the bathroom to eliminate as much as the barium as possible. Then, a final series of X-rays are taken.
The barium enema may cause temporary discomfort. You may experience cramps, feel full, or as if you need to have a bowel movement. An X-ray is a painless procedure. It simply requires that you remain motionless while a picture is taken. Your doctor will also discuss unexpected symptoms related to the test that may occur and a plan to address them.
A radiologist will read your X-rays and report the results to your doctor. This process may take a few days. Your doctor will contact you or schedule a follow-up appointment when the results are received. If any abnormal results were found by your test, your doctor will discuss treatment plan options with you.