Barium Enema

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Barium Enema

What is a Barium Enema or Contrast Enema?

A barium enema or sometimes called a contrast enema is a test that takes pictures of your large intestine.  The barium is a white, clear, or brown liquid that makes the large intestine bright so that the X-Ray can take clear pictures.

Why do I need to have a Barium Enema?

You may have to have a barium enema or contrast enema if the doctor wants to check to see how your large intestine is working and what they can do to help you.

What does a Barium Enema look like?

The barium enema is white, the contrast enema is brown or clear and comes in a small tube.  An X-Ray machine and a bed are used during this test.  Along with the X-Ray machine there is a computer and TV screen.  The TV shows the pictures taken by the X-Ray of your large intestine.

What happens when I have a Barium Enema?

If you are staying in hospital, a porter will come to bring you to the special room to have the barium enema.  A technologist or your doctor (the person who will take the pictures) will greet you and explain what will happen.

The technologist will give you a gown to wear, this looks like a backward housecoat, you may already be wearing one.

You will be asked get up on a bed.  The technologist will then bring out the barium enema or contrast enema.  This test may be a little uncomfortable as the barium and contrast enema has to go into the rectum, which is the hole where your stool (poop) comes out.  The barium or contrast has to go in there because that is where the large intestine is located.  The tube that goes in is very small and very short; it may feel uncomfortable when it is there.  It will not be there for long, only long enough to get the barium into your large intestine.  The doctor will then begin to take the pictures of your large intestine with the X-Ray.  Your doctor may be there too.  The barium or contrast makes it really easy for the X-Ray to see inside your body and take clear pictures of your large intestine.  You may be able to see your large intestine on the TV screen.

Someone like your mom or dad can stay in the room with you during the test.  When it is over, you are able to go back to your room.

What will the Barium Enema feel like?

The barium or contrast enema will feel a little uncomfortable when it is going into your large intestine.  Remember to lie still so they can get a clear picture of your digestive tract.  After you are done, you may notice that when you go to the bathroom your stool (poop) may be white if you had the barium or watery if you had the contrast.  That is just because the barium contrast that you were given was white.

Preparing for the test

Your nurse will give you the information you need to help you get ready to have your barium enema.  She may tell you what you can and cannot eat or drink before the test.  Sometimes you are given some medicine to help you go to the bathroom, to get rid of all of your stool (poop).  This helps because the pictures of your large intestine will be clearer.  The large intestine is what stores your stool before you go to the bathroom, sometimes to get really clear pictures, the doctors need for your intestine to be cleaned out and have no stool left in it.  This way they will be able to see your large intestine clearly because there will be no stool in the way.


If you have any questions about the test, always ask!

This content has been reviewed and approved by health care team members at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

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