A barium enema is a procedure that uses X-rays and barium to examine your child’s large intestine (colon) and rectum. Barium is a liquid that can be seen on X-rays.
This procedure is also called a lower gastrointestinal (GI) exam or lower GI.
This procedure is used to look for problems in your child’s intestines, such as:
During the test, your child will lie on an X-ray table. An X-ray is taken to make sure that his bowels are free of bowel movements. The technologist will put a tube into your child’s rectum and up into the colon and barium will be put through this tube. The technologist will take X-rays that show the barium as it moves through your child’s colon and down toward the rectum. Your child may be asked to change positions several times while the X-rays are taken.
Your child may have a double contrast barium enema. In this test, the barium will be allowed to drain out, leaving a thin coating of barium on the lining of your child’s intestines. Then air will be carefully pumped into the colon so the inner walls of your child’s colon can be seen with X-rays.
Your child may have some cramps or an urge to have a bowel movement during the test. The enema tube is designed to help your child keep the barium in.
At the end of the test, the tube will be removed and your child will go to the restroom to pass the barium (and any air) that was in the intestine. He will then return to the table for a final X-ray.
The procedure takes about an hour. Usually your child will need to hold the barium in his bowel for no more than 15 minutes.
Your child may feel weak and dizzy after the procedure.
Your child’s bowel movements may look white or gray as he passes the rest of the barium over the next few days. Barium can cause constipation. Unless your child’s provider tells you otherwise, make sure that your child drinks plenty of water and eats foods high in fiber until all the barium passes. If your child had a double contrast barium enema, he may have cramping until all the air has passed from his bowel.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Every procedure or treatment has risks. Rare risks of this procedure include:
Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.