A Barium Enema (BE) is an x-ray exam of the large intestine. This exam requires us to fill your large intestine (colon) with a liquid contrast called barium. Certain exams also require us to introduce air along with the barium. Please note that you may have mild cramping at the conclusion of the exam, and you may want someone to accompany you to the Hospital for this test.
You will be required to purchase a Fleet prep kit #2 at your local pharmacy at least three days prior to your exam. You do not need a prescription for this kit. It is important that you follow the 48 hour prep instructions in the kit. Two days prior to your exam do not eat any fruit, nut, peas, coarse cereals or fried foods. On the day before your exam your diet should be only clear liquids such as clear broth, jello, apple or cranberry juice, ginger ale, cola, tea or coffee (do not use cream or milk). On the morning of your exam you may drink small amounts of clear liquids. Do not eat any solid foods. The instructions are important to follow because any fecal material in your colon may alter the results of your exam. You may also take any necessary medications the morning of your exam. If you are diabetic, please consult with your doctor before following these preparation instructions.
Your appointment will be scheduled ahead of time by the hospital's booking office. Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your exam, as you will be required to register and also visit our billing office. Please keep in mind that our hospital is a Level 1 Trauma Center and emergencies often arise beyond our control. Occasionally this may delay the start of your exam. Another thing to be aware of is that we have many x-ray rooms in our department, and certain exams may only be performed in certain rooms. The order in which you arrive in our department may not necessarily be the order in which you are taken into an exam room due to room availability.
You will be escorted into one of our exam rooms by a radiologic technologist and asked to change into a hospital gown. A plain x-ray of your abdomen, called a "scout film" will be taken prior to your exam. This x-ray will show us your basic anatomy, and ensure that there is nothing on your clothing or jewelry that will obscure our films. This also tells us if you followed the preparation required for your exam. A radiologist will enter the exam room and get a brief history from you so that he/she can better perform your exam. The radiologist will insert a tube into your rectum that will allow a barium liquid to fill your colon. You may feel some mild discomfort or cramping from this, however it should not be painful. Certain exams require us to put air into your colon as well to help produce better x-ray pictures of your intestine. You will be required to turn in various positions while the radiologist uses a special x-ray machine called a fluoroscope. This fluoroscope is connected to a TV screen, and it allows the radiologist to see your anatomy and take any necessary x-ray pictures to make an accurate diagnosis. The radiologic technologist will then take a few plain x-rays of your abdomen. After a quick review of the films to ensure that your colon is adequately visualized on the x-ray pictures, we will remove the tube and you will be escorted to the bathroom to allow the barium to be evacuated from your colon. The uncomfortable part of the exam, from when the tube is inserted into your rectum until you are able to go to the bathroom, should not be more than 15 to 20 minutes. The total exam time is typically 1 hour from when you enter the room, until you are able to leave.
You may eat and drink immediately following your exam. It is important that you drink plenty of liquids following your exam to avoid constipation from the barium.
The results of your exam will be sent to your doctor and he/she will receive them usually within 24 hours. The radiologist is not required to communicate results to you personally. Keep in mind that the morning in our department is a busy time for the radiologist, and he/she will be performing many of these exams, one right after another. The afternoon is when your films will be thoroughly reviewed, a diagnosis will be made, and a report will be sent to your doctor.