Barium Enema With Air Contrast

Your doctor has requested a procedure called a barium enema with air contrast. This exam is performed to assess a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, or if your doctor suspects that you may have diverticulitis (small inflamed areas in your colon) or polyps (growth of tissue on your colon). At the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center we have a team of imaging physicians, nurses and technologists led by Richard Sukov, MD FACR, chief, Gastrointestinal Radiology, who specialize in gastrointestinal procedures and who will be performing your exam and interpreting the results.

Before Your Procedure

  • For a satisfactory exam, your colon must be empty. You will need to follow a restricted diet and to take a laxative the night before your exam. See more information on the preparation.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your exam. (If you are diabetic, please consult your physician about the preparation for this exam.)
  • If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.

During Your Procedure

  • The technologist will explain your procedure and answer any questions you may have before your exam.
  • You will be asked to change into a gown and to lie on the exam table on your back with your arms at your side.
  • The technologist will take a "scout" film to see if your colon is clean.
  • Once the scout film has been reviewed by the imaging physician, the technologist will insert a lubricated enema tip into your rectum.
  • The imaging physician will start the exam by allowing liquid barium to flow through the enema tip, a little at a time. This material allows the visualization of your colon.
  • The imaging physician will watch the flow of the barium with a fluoroscope and will ask you to turn from side to side while taking pictures of your colon. Turning helps to coat the walls of your colon.
  • Following initial visualization of the colon with the liquid barium, the imaging physician will introduce air through the same enema tip. You may experience cramping or a sensation of being bloated.
  • It is important that you do not expel the air or the barium. The air is used to expand the walls of the colon for a more detailed look at the lining of your colon.
  • After the barium and air is in, the technologist will take a series of X-rays of your colon. You will be asked to hold your breath and remain still during the picture.
  • An imaging physician will review the images to make sure that they are sufficient to make a diagnosis. If they are not, more pictures may be taken.
  • Once the films are complete, the technologist will take you to the bathroom so that you can expel the barium.
  • Final pictures will be taken to assess if your colon is empty.
  • Your exam will take approximately 45 minutes. This may be longer if more images are required.

After Your Procedure

  • Drink plenty of liquid for 24 to 48 hours.
  • The barium may make your stool white for several days.
  • If you experience constipation, your physician may recommend a mild laxative.
  • Your study will be read by the imaging physician and results sent to your physician, usually within 48 hours. Your physician will discuss these results with you and explain what they mean in relation to your health.
For more information or to schedule an appointment