Barium Enema

This X-ray creates detailed images of the large intestine. The images are taken after barium is inserted into the rectum and colon.




This X-ray creates detailed images of the large intestine. The images are taken after barium is inserted into the rectum and colon.



An X-ray of the large intestine creates detailed images of the large intestine (colon and rectum).

  • The images are taken after a dye called barium is inserted into the rectum and colon.
  • It is also known as a “barium enema.”
  • Your health care provider may order a barium enema to look for:

    • Cancer
    • Colitis
    • Other diseases of the colon

    Barium enemas are not ordered as often as they use to be.

    • Newer tests allow a healthcare provider to see problems in the bowels more directly
    • Colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and proctoscopy are examples of tests that provide a direct view of the bowels.

    Tell the technician if you are, or could be, pregnant. The exposure from a single X-ray has not been associated with harmful effects to an unborn baby, but precautions should be taken.

    • In some cases, other imaging studies may be appropriate (such as an ultrasound or MRI).
    • The technician may ask you to move into other positions, so he or she can take different images.
    • Otherwise, you will need to stay still during the test, so the technician can take a clear image.

    Prior to the procedure, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the procedure. These may include:

    • Medications you should not take before the procedure
    • Regular medications you should take on the day of your procedure
    • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the procedure

    Your healthcare provider may give you suggestions on ways you can prevent constipation after the use of barium. These can include fluids and a mild laxative.

    The costs for this test include the charge for the test (facility charge) and physician charges (for performing or interpreting the test). You may get separate bills from the facility and the physician's office.

    What should I ask my health care provider before having this test?

    • Is there any special preparation for the test? (If so, get clear steps to follow.)
    • What is the reason for this particular test? Are the test results likely to change my treatment plan? If not, why do I need the test?
    • What are the possible side effects?
    • What are the possible risks/complications?
    • How will I feel after the procedure? Do I need to take a laxative after the test?
    • What other procedures could be done instead of this X-ray? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

    After your barium enema, your healthcare provider should provide a description of any problems found during the procedure and what symptoms you should report. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans.

    Source UHC.com

    Also known as:

    X-ray Large Intestine
    X-ray
    Barium Enema


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