Barium Enema

A barium enema exam is a common procedure done to visualize the colon and rectum. The purpose is to detect polyps, diverticula (pouches within the colon) or any other disease or changes in the colon. Barium is a liquid which shows tissue structure of the colon separately from the other organs in the abdomen. The barium must be retained while a series of X-rays are taken. The procedure takes less than one hour.

Procedure Preparation

For the exam, the colon (sometimes called the large bowel or large intestine) must be empty and clean. Your physician will give you complete instructions on preparing for the exam, including a liquid diet the day before the exam.

Any woman who thinks she may be pregnant should inform her doctor before scheduling this examination.

Any prescribed medication may be taken prior to the examination. Please check in at Central Registration in the Main Lobby before reporting to the Radiology Department if you have not been preregistered over the phone.

During the Procedure

You will be asked to remove your clothing and put on a gown. You will be placed on an X-ray table and the X-ray equipment will be positioned above you. A lubricated enema tip will be inserted into your rectum. A radiologist will use the X-ray equipment and watch as the barium flows into your colon. You will be asked to turn from side to side as the pictures are taken. After a series of X-rays are completed, you will be allowed to go to the bathroom and expel the barium. You may notice evidence of barium in your stool for the next few days.

After the Procedure

After this procedure, you may resume normal activities. It is important to flush the colon of any residual barium. Drink six to eight glasses of fluids such as juice, water or coffee. Take a laxative if needed to prevent constipation.


Once the exam is complete, the X-rays will be studied by a radiologist and compared to any available prior X-rays of this same area. A report of the findings will be sent to your physician.