A barium and/or air enema (or lower GI series) is a test used to study the large bowel. X-rays are taken while barium is put through the rectum and visualized as it moves through the entire colon until it reaches the small bowel. The barium enema helps detect abnormal changes in the large bowel (colon). The barium enema, along with colonoscopy, remain standard in the diagnosis of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, and other diseases of the colon.
Your doctor will schedule this exam. If you have questions, call Radiology at 608-263-Xray (608-263-9729)
Date and time to check in: ___________________________________________________
Tell your Local and Radiology Doctors if you have:
If you have any of these conditions, you may need a different bowel prep.
If you are taking medicines, check with your doctor or radiologist to find out if they should be taken within the 24 hours before the exam.
Getting Ready for the Test
For this test to be accurate, you must have an empty bowel. To do this, you will follow a clear liquid diet and take laxatives.
A few days before the test, go to your local drugstore and buy these over-the-counter bowel preps.
- 1 bottle of magnesium citrate 10 ounces (It is easier to drink chilled.)
- Bisacodyl tablets 20 milligrams (mg.)
The Day before the Test
You will eat and drink ONLY clear liquids the day before the test.
Clear broth or consommé
Clear Jell-O®, with nothing in it
Juice without pulp:, apple, grape, cranberry
Clear hard candy
Coffee or tea, no creamer
Sparkling water or soda
NO juices with pulp (orange, tomato, prune juice, lemonade) or dairy products of any kind.
The Bowel Prep
Clear Liquids only
Be sure to drink 8 glasses (8-ounces each) of water, between noon and 11:00 pm, unless your fluid intake is restricted.
You may want to take these bowel preps earlier in the day than the schedule below. Do not take either of these at work and expect to travel home, without needing a bathroom.
5:30 pm: Drink magnesium citrate 10 ounces.
8:00 pm: Take bisacodyl tablets 20 milligrams (mg.). Do not chew or crush.
These will cause you to have loose bowel movements.
Nothing to eat or drink after midnight, unless your doctor has told you to take pills with a sip of water.
If the procedure is scheduled in the afternoon, a liquid breakfast is permitted.
On the day of the exam, if you are still having solid stools, please call
608-263-8351 between 8:00 and 8:15 am and leave a message. Please include your name and phone number, with area code. We will call you back.
A small tube will be put into your rectum and the barium will flow into your bowel. As the barium fills your colon, you may have cramps or feel like you need to move your bowels. We will give you medicine if needed to relieve the pain. Your doctor will watch your bowel as it fills with barium on a TV-like screen. The lights will be dim so your doctor can see more clearly. The whirring noise you hear is made by the x-ray machine.
The doctor may press on your abdomen to help spread the barium through your bowel. You will be asked to turn from side to side so different views of your bowel can be seen. This will take 10- 20 minutes.
Before you go to the bathroom to expel the barium, the technologist may take several more x-rays with you in different positions.
You will be asked to wait while the doctor checks the x-rays. If the doctor wishes to look at part of your bowel from another angle, we will take more x-rays.
If you have a “double contrast study”, the large bowel is coated with barium and filled with air to make it appear see-through on the x-ray. You may feel some cramping and fullness. Please tell your doctor. You may need medicine to relieve this. You will be asked to roll on all sides and stand while the doctor takes x-rays. This test will take 20-40 minutes.
Please allow 1½ to 2½ hours for the whole exam.
After the Test
The radiologist will talk with your local doctor about the results of your exam. Your local doctor will discuss with you these results and treatment, if needed.
You may need to take 2 tablespoons of milk of magnesia to help you expel the barium. Ask the doctor.
You will have white colored bowel movements for a day or two. This is normal. Drink plenty of fluids to help move the barium out.
You may go back to your own diet unless your doctor tells you something else.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/15/2013
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