Diseases & Conditions
Air Contrast Barium Enema
What is an air contrast barium enema?
An air contrast barium enema is a procedure in which x-rays, barium, and air are used to examine your large intestine (colon). Barium is a fluid that shows up clearly on an x- ray.
When is it used?
This procedure is used to look for diseases of the intestine, such as:
Examples of alternatives are:
to have other tests
to choose not to have treatment, recognizing the risks of your condition.
You should ask your doctor about these choices.
How do I prepare for an air contrast barium enema?
Follow your doctor's instructions for what you should or should not eat or drink before the procedure. Because the large intestine needs to be empty, you will be put on a restricted diet for a few days before the exam.
Take a laxative and use an enema if advised.
Take a sedative if prescribed.
Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that are easy to get in and out of.
What happens during the procedure?
You will lie on a table. An x-ray technologist may take a regular x-ray of your abdomen. He or she will then insert a lubricated tube into your anus and rectum. The tube is connected to a bag of barium. After the barium has passed through your intestine, the technologist will carefully pump some air into your intestine and then take x-rays from several different angles. You may feel a strong urge to move your bowels. Take long, deep breaths through your mouth to relax.
You can go to the bathroom after several x-rays have been taken. After you have a bowel movement, more x-rays may be taken.
What happens after the procedure?
The radiologist will send a report to your doctor.
Ask your doctor what other steps you should take and when to come back for a checkup.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
This procedure may help the doctor make a better diagnosis.
What are the risks associated with this procedure?
You may feel weak and dizzy from the enema.
Rarely, the wall of the intestine may tear if it is weak. If this occurs, you may need surgery.
Rarely, you may develop an infection.
You should ask your doctor how these risks apply to you.
When should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor immediately if:
You're in a lot of pain.
You develop a fever.
Call the doctor during office hours if:
You have questions about the procedure or its result.
You want to make another appointment.