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Barium Enema

Focuses on the entire colon.  Indications include, but are not limited to:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Incomplete colonoscipy
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Diverticulitis or polyps
  • History of diverticulitis

A Barium Enema is aprocedure shows the form and function of the colon (large intestine / bowel).  It allows a physician to check for any deformity, growth or disease of the organ.   Duration: 60-90 minutes.

Patient Preparation:
24 hrs prior to your procedure, you will have a restrictive diet and laxatives for bowel cleansing, as directed by your doctor.  Please refer to our Summary of Exam Preparations.

Upon arrival to the radiology department, you will be changed into a hospital gown and robe provided by the hospital.  You are required to remove all clothing and jewelry, including undergarments.  Your privacy and comfort will be maintained at all times.

**NOTE:  If you are a woman of childbearing age, the technologist will ask if there is any possibility of pregnancy.

During the procedure:
A doctor of radiology (radiologist) and registered technologist(s) will perform the procedure.  Please feel free to ask any questions at any time during your procedure.
A registered technologist will go over some medical history and your medication list with you prior to the procedure.   She/he will explain to you what your procedure requires.  You will be positioned on a flat table for an initial x-ray of your abdomen.  The table moves, tilts and is attached to a fluoroscope, (an x-ray unit that works with a television/computer screen).  The technologist will show the x-ray to the radiologist. 

A lubricated plastic enema tip is inserted into your rectum to deposit barium sulfate into your colon.  As the liquid barium fills your colon, you may feel abdominal cramping.  Try to hold the tip in your rectum.  It helps to breathe through the discomfort to keep your colon relaxed.  If you feel uncomfortable during the exam, tell the radiologist!

Barium is a harmless substance that will highlight the colon by absorbing x-rays.  In addition, air (also used as contrast) may be introduced through the enema tip.  Once doctor is finished, the technologist(s) will take some still x-rays using the overhead x-ray tube (camera).  There are approximately 6-10 images required of your abdomen in various positions while the barium is still in your colon. 

The technologist(s) will have the doctor quickly review the images to ensure no other views are required.  After, the barium will be drained and you are then shown nearby bathroom to expel the remaining barium from your colon and rectum and one final image is taken.  You will then get cleaned & dressed in the bathroom and the technologist will provide discharge instructions in both verbal and in written form once the procedure is complete.  You are escorted out of the department through reception.

Post-procedure Information:
The radiologist (doctor) will read the images and dictate a report.  Your physician will receive a report of the findings within 3 business days and should advise you of the results.

***Important*** Drink plenty of water (8-10 cups/day) for the next few days following the exam to avoid constipation and blockage. The barium will make your stools white for a few days.  This is normal.  Please be sure to follow the discharge instructions given to you after your procedure.


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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100