Skip to main content

Barium Enema

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

A barium enema is an x-ray procedure used to examine the lower intestines. Liquid barium is a white, chalky solution that helps healthcare providers see the intestines more clearly. The lower intestines include the large bowel and rectum.

Digestive Tract


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • Your vomit has blood or bile in it.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your abdomen becomes tender and hard.
  • You are unable to have a bowel movement.
  • Your bowel movements are black or have blood in them.
  • You feel too full or bloated.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your bowel movements are thin and light in color after 3 days.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines may be needed to make it easier for you to have a bowel movement or to prevent constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Bowel movements:

Your bowel movements may be light in color for up to 72 hours after your procedure. Do not strain or push hard to have a bowel movement. This can cause bleeding.

Eat a variety of healthy foods:

This will help make it easier to have a bowel movement. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

Drink liquids as directed:

Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids will help flush the barium from your system and prevent constipation. Limit caffeine. Prune juice may help make your bowel movement softer.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return to go over the results of your procedure. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.