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Barium Enema


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


Before your procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

During your procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will give you medicine that will help relax your intestines and rectum. X-rays will be taken before the barium enema is given. During a single contrast barium enema, a soft tube with lubricant jelly will be gently placed into your rectum. The barium is then passed through the tube and into your lower intestine. A small balloon on the tip of the tube may be inflated to help hold the barium in your intestine. You may feel pressure and mild discomfort. You may have an urge to have a bowel movement. Pictures will be taken as the table moves and you change positions.
  • During a double contrast barium enema, the barium will be drained out of the rectum. Your healthcare provider will then put gas into the tube to help expand your intestine. Pictures will be taken to see how the gas moves inside your intestine. When the procedure is finished, the tube will be removed. You may then go to the bathroom and get rid of as much barium as possible. More pictures may be taken after you have emptied as much barium as possible from your intestine.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you may be able to go home.

  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids will help flush out any barium left in your body.
  • Medicine may be given to make it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to prevent constipation.


You may have abdominal cramps or an abnormal heartbeat. You may bleed more than expected. The barium may become hard and cause a blockage in your intestines. Your intestines may tear due to increased pressure. This may cause bowel contents to leak out of the intestines into your abdomen.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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

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