A barium enema is a fluoroscopic exam that helps physicians evaluate and diagnose problems within the large bowel or colon. The patient is often quite nervous before the exam, but if the procedure is done properly, barium enemas should not be something to stress about.
Barium enemas are used to help diagnose and find cancers of the colon, various inflammatory conditions such as diverticulitis, and for discovering polyps. A colonoscopy is an alternative for a barium enema and is considered to be a more accurate test. However, a colonoscopy is more expensive than a barium enema.
Patient preparation is very important for this exam. The day before the exam you will be asked not to eat, and to only drink clear liquids like juice, tea, black coffee, cola, or broth and to avoid dairy products. After midnight you should take nothing by mouth. You may also be instructed to take a laxative and to use an over-the-counter enema preparation kit the evening before the procedure. Just follow your doctor's instructions.
Before the procedure begins, the radiologists or technologists will discuss details of the examination and can review rare contradictions. The patient is asked to remove all clothing and to put on a gown. The technologist then positions the patient on the x-ray table for a preliminary or scout film. This film is to ensure that the patient is cleaned out enough for the barium enema procedure. The radiologist will "clear the scout film and the procedure can now begin.
The technologists will ask the patient to turn up on their left side for insertion of the enema tube. The enema tube is inserted into the rectum and a small balloon at the tip of the enema is inflated. The balloon is inflated to help the patient hold the enema. After the technologists as inserted the enema tube, the radiologists is called in.
When the radiologist arrives, he or she will ask the patient to lie face down