Barium Enema General Information

What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is a test which uses X-rays and a special kind of enema solution to take pictures of the colon or large bowel, which is the lower part of the intestines. The test shows the doctor if there is anything wrong inside the colon and how well it is working. Barium enema procedures are done on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Before you come to the hospital, explain to your child what will happen. For young children, use simple words and explain only right before the test. Older children need to be reassured that respect for privacy will be ensured.

Your child should not eat or drink anything for 4 hours before the test. If your child is taking medicines ordered by a doctor, give them at the scheduled times with just a sip of water. If you have questions about giving your child the medicine, call your child's doctor. 

During the test your child will lie on the X-ray table. He / she will be given an enema of special fluid called barium. This liquid will show up in the child's colon on the X-rays. After the enema is given, the X-ray technologist or doctor (radiologist) will take X-ray pictures of the child.

The test may be uncomfortable, but he / she will need to lie still on the X-ray table. Privacy will be ensured. If your child is unable to lie still, our staff will assist your child in holding still.

This test lasts 30-60 minutes. You are encouraged to stay with your child during the test. Children are often more cooperative and less apprehensive when a loved one is with them. It is best to have another caregiver watch the child's siblings so you can be with your child. If you are pregnant, you will have to wait outside the room during the pictures.

It is possible that during the procedure your child may experience some discomfort. Please tell the doctor, nurse or technologist if pain occurs so it can be evaluated.

The technologist will advise the patient and / or parents when all the X-ray pictures are taken. Your child may return to normal daily activities. Results of the test will be sent to your child's doctor who will contact you about the results.

After the barium enema test, it is helpful for your child to drink plenty of liquids to help him/her pass the barium out of the colon. Give your child liquids like juices, water, Kool-Aid or fruit punch.

It is possible that your child's stool may appear to be whitish in color for 24-48 hours after the test due to the barium that was placed into the colon. Whitish stool is not cause for concern. Encouraging your child to drink fluids will allow his / her stool to return to normal within a short time.


Last Updated 06/2012