The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - Barium Enema
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What happens when the test is performed?
  • You wear a hospital gown and lie on a table in the radiology department. To administer the enema, a nurse pushes a small tube an inch or two into your rectum, and then uses this tube to fill your colon and rectum with barium liquid. You may find the sensation of the filling of your colon somewhat strange (you might feel like you need to have a bowel movement), but it is not painful.

    The x-ray for this test is taken as a video that begins immediately after your enema is started. The x-ray video is taken by a large camera positioned over your abdomen. Usually the room is darkened while the video is taken so that the doctor can watch the pictures on a TV screen. If the doctor wants to save a view in "freeze frame" (developed later for a closer look), you may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds so that your breathing movement does not blur the image. A few more pictures may be taken after the lights are turned back on. After this, you are asked to empty your bowel in a nearby bathroom.

    Usually one picture is taken of your abdomen after you have had your bowel movement, to make sure that the bowel has emptied well.


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