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Barium Enema

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What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is a common x-ray procedure used to see the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Barium is a thick white liquid that will allow the colon and rectum to be seen on x-rays. It is put into the colon through a small tube placed in the rectum. Once the barium is in the colon, pictures are taken. A radiologist (a physician trained to perform and read x-rays) will check the pictures.

What does a barium enema show?

A barium enema can help identify and locate the reason for constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain or discomfort.

What do we do to prepare for a barium enema?

When you schedule your appointment through your physician’s office you will get instructions about what you need to do before the test. Follow the instructions exactly as you are told so the test can be done as planned.

Who does the test?

A radiology technologist will assist the radiologist performing the procedure.

Who looks at the pictures?

The radiologist will review all the pictures during and after the procedure. He/she will talk to your child’s doctor.

How is the test performed?

Your child will lie on his/her left side. Infants and toddlers are strapped on a board to keep them safe during the test. A small catheter (tube) will be placed into the rectum. The buttocks will then be taped together to keep the tip from slipping out. The tip will be connected to a bag of barium. The radiologist will start the procedure by letting the barium slowly go into the colon. The radiologist will take picture of the colon as it is filling up with the barium. You and your child will be able to watch on a TV monitor.

After the colon is filled with the barium, the technologist will take several more pictures. Your child will then be able to go to the bathroom to release the barium. The technologist will then take 1 or 2 more pictures after your child has finished in the bathroom. Once the radiologist views the films, your child's procedure will be completed for that part of the exam, and he/she may get dressed to go home.

How long does this test take?

Start to finish, the entire barium enema test usually takes 20-30 minutes. Sometimes, you will be asked to return on the following day for follow-up x-rays. These will only be regular x-rays and another enema is not needed. If you are asked to return the next day for follow-up films, this will generally take less time.

How should I prepare my child?

Infants: You can help your baby feel more secure during the test by bringing a special blanket, toy or pacifier. Please bring along a bottle of juice or formula to feed your baby when the test is done.

Toddlers and preschool-age children: Young children remember things for only a short time, so the best time to talk about the test is right before you are ready to come to the hospital. Tell your child that you are going to the hospital to have some “pictures" taken that the doctor needs to help him/her get better. Try to use simple words. It is important to be honest with your child. Because children at this age are afraid of being separated from their parent, let him/her know that mom or dad will stay with him/her as much as possible. When you come to the hospital, bring a favorite book, toy or blanket. You may also bring a snack for after the test.

School-age children: School-age children have good imaginations. If you don't tell them the truth, they may imagine something much worse than the actual test. The day of the test, tell your child that he/she will be going to the hospital to have some pictures taken of the inside of his/her body. Tell him/her the pictures will help the doctor decide how to make him/her better. Use simple words, and be honest. Try to tell your child exactly what will happen. Tell your child that he may be a little uncomfortable. He/she may feel some cramping and pressure. When you come to the hospital, bring a favorite book, toy or game. If you wish, you may bring a snack for after the test.

What happen after the test?

The technologist will give you the instructions you need and tell you when you may leave.

Who will give me the results?

Your doctor will tell the family when to call the office for the results (usually it is the next day).

Please call your child's doctor or the Radiology Department (668-7250) if you have any questions or concerns.

Your child's exam was performed by: ________________________________________


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 03/07

(757) 668-7000