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What to Expect for a Barium Enema

A lower GI series allows physicians to view changes or abnormalities in the large intestine. Doctors use this type of x-ray exam to diagnose a wide variety of intestinal conditions, including polyps, ulcers, colon cancer, and appendicitis, as well as Crohn's disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases. To provide the radiologist with a clear, detailed view of the colon, a barium solution is introduced into the patient's lower intestine with an enema tube.

Before Your Appointment

  • Please pre-register for your appointment by calling 978-937-6429, Monday - Friday, 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. or anytime online at  Express Registration .
  • An Appointment Reminder with specific instructions for your exam will be mailed to you.
  • Please keep the written order from your physician to bring to the exam.
  • Obtain copies of any recent films from x-ray exams or scans performed at other facilities to bring to the exam.
  • Be sure to inform your doctor of any allergies or other medical conditions
  • Women should tell their doctors if they might be pregnant.

Exam Preparation

Day Before the Exam

  • To ensure the accuracy of the test results, your colon must be thoroughly cleansed before the exam. For this reason, your diet for lunch and dinner on the day before the procedure will be limited to the following clear liquids:
    • Jello (do not eat red-colored Jello)
    • Clear broth
    • Clear juice; such as apple and white grape
    • Tea and coffee, with NO milk or cream
  • Consume one (1) bottle of citrate of magnesia between 1pm and 3 p.m., the day before your exam.
  • Take four (4) Dulcolax tablets at 8 p.m. the night before your exam. (These may be purchased at any pharmacy.)
  • DO NOT eat or drink after midnight.
  • You may take any medications as prescribed.

Day of the Exam

  • DO NOT eat breakfast the day of the exam.
  • You may take prescribed medication with a small amount of water.
  • No other drinks are allowed the morning of the exam.

During the Procedure

At the start of the exam, you will lie on your side on a table as a lubricated enema tube administers barium into your colon through this tube. You will be asked to move from side to side to distribute the barium evenly throughout your colon. To prevent blurry images, you will need to hold your breath and remain still as the x-rays are taken. Air may be puffed into your colon during the exam through the tube, or the radiologist may press on your pelvis and abdomen to obtain a clearer view of the colon. Some patients experience discomfort or a sensation of fullness in the lower abdomen during the exam. The entire test, including preparation, usually lasts about an hour.

After the Procedure

You may eat as soon as you wish after the exam. Be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids. These will flush out the barium and help you avoid constipation.

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