The barium enema is an x-ray exam with the goal of examining the rectum and colon (large intestine).
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About the Exam
The barium enema involves the injection of a contrast medium containing barium, which is impervious to x-rays, into the rectum and colon using a small tube inserted through the anus. Afterwards, images of the abdomen are taken.
This exam, which takes approximately 30 minutes, enables abnormalities such as tumors, polyps, diverticula and inflammation to be detected.
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Do not undergo this exam if you are pregnant. If you have had a colonoscopy, or if you are in treatment for diverticulitis, you must wait a month before proceeding with the exam.
You will be met by our team who will get you positioned on the exam table lying down on your left side. This position favours the rectal insertion of the tube, which is attached to a bag containing the contrast medium.
The technologist will inflate a small balloon inside your rectum that will allow the tube to stay in place throughout the exam.
Afterwards, the barium will be drained through the tube inside the colon. In a double-contrast exam, we also inject air.
The technologist (or radiologist) will ask you to position yourself in a variety of ways, lying down or upright, in order to take a series of x-ray images.
What You May Experience
Contrary to popular belief, even if it is uncomfortable, the barium enema is not painful. As this exam is, in part, performed upright, please inform the staff if you feel weak or dizzy.
After the Exam
It is important that you drink lots of water during the next days to help expel the barium. Stool may be whitish in colour for 48 to 72 hours after the exam.
Complications associated with this exam are very rare, as it is not very invasive.
The results of your exam will be sent to your referring physician, who will take care of any necessary follow-up.