Munson Health
Barium Enema

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by Mahnke D

(Barium X-ray; Lower GI Series)



Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays. Barium is placed into the bowels through the rectum. This is called an enema. Barium coats the lining of the lower intestines. This makes that area easier to see on an x-ray.
Barium Enema
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What to Expect

Prior to Test

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to latex or barium.
Your intestines must be empty before this test. Your doctor may ask you to:
  • Eat a clear liquid diet.
  • Take laxatives.
  • Use a warm water or over-the-counter enema.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Description of Test

A well-lubricated enema tube will be gently inserted into your rectum. You may be given an injection to relax the rectum. Barium will be inserted through the tube. A small balloon at the end of the tube will be inflated. This balloon keeps the barium inside. You will be moved several times to make sure the barium coats the walls of the colon and rectum. A small amount of air will be inserted through the tube. A series of x-rays will be taken. After this, the enema tube will be removed.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1-2 hours

Will It Hurt?

You may feel discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. You may have bloating and severe cramping during the test. You may also feel as if you need to move your bowels.


It may take up to a few days to receive your test results. If the results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend:
  • Follow-up testing
  • Treatment options


American Society of Radiologic Technologists

Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America



Canadian Association of Radiologists

Health Canada



Barium enema. McKinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website. Available at: Updated June 14, 2011. Accessed September 3, 2014.

Lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract x-ray (radiography). Radiology website. Available at: Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2014.

Lower GI series. National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: Updated May 7, 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.


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