What is a Barium Enema?

A barium enema is an examination of the colon (large bowel) and rectum. This procedure uses a contrast dye called barium. The barium is a white chalky material used to coat the walls of your colon. 

X-rays are taken to obtain a clear picture. This exam can detect problems with your lower digestive system.

How do I prepare for a barium enema? 

Before your procedure bring your insurance information, personal identification, prescription for the exam and any prior studies and reports for comparison.

Your doctor will provide instructions for the exam. On the night before your exam, you are not to eat or drink anything after midnight. You will be asked to wear a hospital gown during the exam.

Tell your doctor and/or technologist if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding  

  • Are allergic to any medications or food allergies, including iodine 

  • Have diabetes 

  • Have a history of kidney problems, asthma or multiple myeloma


What Happens During the Barium Enema?

Your radiologist or technologist will help position you on a special tilting table. You will lie on your left side as a lubricated enema tip is placed in your rectum. A liquid barium mixture is released. The tip of the enema tube is designed to help you hold in the barium. As the barium fills your colon, you may feel like you need to move your bowels. If you have trouble holding in the barium, please inform the radiologist or technologist.

X-Ray Imaging

Using an X-ray machine, your radiologist will observe the barium flow into your colon. You will be asked to turn from side to side. You will be asked to hold several different positions. During this time, some gentle pressure may be applied to your stomach. The table may tilt slightly at times, the radiologist will ask you to lie still and hold your breath, then X-rays are taken to record the image. After a series of X-rays have been completed, you will be allowed to go to the bathroom. You will pass the rest of the barium as if it were a bowel movement. You may then be asked to come back in the room for more X-rays of your empty colon.

What Happens After the Exam?

You can return to normal activities and your usual diet, unless told otherwise by your doctor. Please drink plenty of water. The barium may give a whitish color to your stools for the next day or two. Barium may cause constipation. You can talk to your doctor regarding these situations.

When Should I Expect the Results?

You can expect your physician to receive a written report within 3 to 5 working days.

About Our Staff and Equipment

The equipment of Hackensack Radiology is maintained in excellent condition. All of our equipment meets federal government standards.

Radiologists who are certified by the American Board of Radiology operate our radiology center. Our technologists are licensed by the State of New Jersey and are certified by The American Registry. With top-tier certifications and licenses given to its staff, our Radiology Department is able to provide quality services to patients in Northern New Jersey and beyond.

HUMC: A Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence

The American College of Radiology (ACR) has recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as the first-ever Diagnostic Imaging Centers of Excellence Award recipient. This elite distinction recognizes HUMC’s excellence in diagnostic imaging. The award was presented to Harry Agress Jr., M.D., FACR, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Radiology and director of the PET/CT Center and Division of Nuclear Medicine, during ACR’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. As one of only two centers nationwide to receive this designation, Hackensack UMC stands as one of the best hospitals in New Jersey and radiology department in the greater metropolitan area. 

Survey and Contact Information

You may receive a survey by mail. We are asking for feedback on how we can improve our services and care. Please take a few minutes to reply. We would appreciate your input in order to provide the highest quality of care.  

If you have any questions about any procedures, please call our Radiology Department at 551-996-2245.

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