Barium enema exam

X-ray of your bowel

If you're having problems with your bowel, we can carry out an X-ray to find out what's happening

About

A barium enema is a test to examine your colon (bowel). It's a type of fluoroscopy, which involves using X-ray technology to obtain real-time images of your insides. Your bowel doesn't show up clearly in normal X-rays. But by swallowing a special liquid containing barium, we can gather detailed images of your colon. If your GP or consultant thinks you have a problem with your colon, they may ask you to have a barium enema.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    We'll ask you to take two doses of a liquid containing barium prior to your X-ray. Barium helps to highlight your bowel in greater detail. We'll most likely ask you to take it on the day of your X-ray before you come in. When you arrive at the hospital, you'll be asked to change into a gown. You'll then be taken into an X-ray room and asked to lie on your side on a table. The X-ray will be carried out by one of our expert radiologists. They may need to gently insert a small, thin tube into your back passage. They'll remove this after the X-ray. Your radiologist will take several images, asking you to change positions.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will give you sachets of a power containing barium to take prior to your X-ray. They may also ask you to stick to a special diet in the days leading up to your X-ray. Additionally, you may be given a laxative to help empty your bowel. Your GP or consultant will explain all of this to you, and answer any questions you might have. On the morning before your X-ray, you should take your first sachet. Simply dissolve the powder in a little water. It will heat up, so wait five minutes. Then, add some cold water, stir it and drink. You should do this before 8am. Take your second sachet about three hours after lunch.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    You should be able to go home right after your X-ray. Your radiologist or nurse will explain when you can get back to your normal routine. The images taken of your bowel will be analysed, before being sent to your GP or consultant, who will explain the results to you. They'll also explain if you require any further tests or treatment.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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