Barium enema

The Birmingham Bowel Clinic offers a complete barium fluoroscopy service. Barium, a white powder, has long been used mixed with water, as a contrast medium to demonstrate the bowel on X-rays. Barium outlines the lining of the bowel allowing it to be visualized on X rays.


What is a Barium enema?

This is an X ray test to look at the large bowel (colon) and often part of the small bowel called the terminal ileum. Barium is mixed up with warm water to outline the large bowel and pictures (X rays) are taken to look for any abnormalities.

We often perform a barium enema for a number of reasons including chronic diarrhoea or constipation, blood in the stools, irritable symptoms, weight loss or a change in bowel habit (see picture).


Is there any preparation?

It is important to have a clean bowel. The radiology department will supply you with two sachets of a laxative (usually picolax) to be taken the day before the procedure and you should not eat or drink anything from midnight before the examination. You can take your normal medications.


What does the barium enema involve?

You will be asked to remove some of your clothes and wear a hospital gown. A small tube will be placed into your bottom in the X ray room and the warm barium ran in. A small injection is then given to relax the bowel and allow amounts of air to be instilled to distend the bowel and allow pictures to be taken. At the end of the examination you will send a little time in the toilet before going home. You can eat and drink normally afterwards and ideally someone should drive you home.

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