Barium Enema

Your doctor has referred you for a barium enema. This information is to help you with questions you may have.

Why have a barium enema?

Your Doctor may have suggested this test for several reasons: irregularity of bowel motions, bleeding from the bowel and / or lower abdominal pain.

Preparing for the test

Please inform us if you have had any previous abdominal or bowel surgery that could affect this preparation, e.g. colostomy.

It is important that the bowel is empty before we start the test. For this reason, you will be given a pack of laxative and a diet guide for the two days prior to the study. It is important you follow the instructions, and if you have any queries please don't hesitate to call, or phone us for advice or reassurance.

The test usually takes between 40 and 60 minutes, and at the start you will be asked to undress and put on an x-ray gown.

Female patients - please let us know prior to this test if you are, or think you may be pregnant.

Who does the test?

A Radiologist (x-ray doctor) and a Radiographer (x-ray technician) will be in the room with you. They will explain the procedure as you go, but don't hesitate to ask them if you do not understand.

What is barium?

Barium is a chalky substance that can be suspended in water and is visible on x-rays. It is very safe, but you should be aware that it may cause mild constipation. Drinking water and eating a fibre-rich diet over the next few days may assist if this occurs.

The procedure

As the bowel is a soft tissue structure, it is not usually seen on a plain x-ray. By using barium to coat the inner lining of this area, the Radiologist can see the bowel clearly on the x-ray screen and can watch the way it functions during this study.

A small lubricated plastic tube will be inserted into your rectum by the Doctor or Radiographer. This can be a little uncomfortable; and if it is hurting, tell the Doctor.

The Radiologist will slowly let Barium into the tube and this will gradually go up the bowel. A small amount of air will be introduced. This inflates the bowel wall; the barium coats the inside layer, and the loops of bowel can be seen more clearly. The Radiologist will take a series of X-ray pictures of the bowel as the barium passes through. The Radiologist will ask you to hold your breath for each picture, and will ask you to roll around to enable the bowel to be seen more clearly.

The Radiologist may also give you a small injection in your arm during the examination. This injection temporarily stops the peristalsis (muscle movement) of the bowel so we can take better X-rays. Occasionally, the injection causes temporary blurred vision - this is for a few minutes, if at all. If you do feel your vision is blurred, please wait until your eyes are clear before you drive your car. If you wish to stay at Hamilton Radiology until you feel your sight is clear, please do so.

After the Radiologist has seen your X-rays and the test is completed, you can go to the lavatory to get rid of the barium and air that has been introduced. Sometimes as the injection wears off, you may get a little discomfort and / or cramping. If you do feel uncomfortable, returning to the toilet or walking around may assist.

You will notice the barium in your bowel motions for the next few days.

After the examination

The Radiologist will review the images and provide a written report to your referring doctor.

Please settle your account on the day of the examination.

Please contact Hamilton Radiology for an appointment on 07-839 4909 or 0800 HAMRAD (0800 426723)

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