Barium Enema (Patient Information)

Barium Enema (Lower GI Series/BE)

What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is a common x-ray procedure used to see the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Barium is a thick white liquid that will allow the colon and rectum to be seen on x-rays. It is put into the colon through a small tube placed in the rectum. Once the barium is in the colon, pictures are taken. A radiologist (a physician trained to perform and read x-rays) will check the pictures.

What does a barium enema show?

A barium enema can help identify and locate the reason for constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain or discomfort.

Who does the test?

A radiology technologist will assist the radiologist performing the procedure.

Who looks at the pictures?

The radiologist will review all the pictures during and after the procedure. He/she will talk to your child’s doctor.

How is the test performed?

Your child will lie on his/her left side. Infants and toddlers are strapped on a board to keep them safe during the test. A small catheter (tube) will be placed into the rectum. The buttocks will then be taped together to keep the tip from slipping out. The tip will be connected to a bag of barium. The radiologist will start the procedure by letting the barium slowly go into the colon. The radiologist will take picture of the colon as it is filling up with the barium. You and your child will be able to watch on a TV monitor.

After the colon is filled with the barium, the technologist will take several more pictures. Your child will then be able to go to the bathroom to release the barium. The technologist will then take 1 or 2 more pictures after your child has finished in the bathroom. Once the radiologist views the films, your child's procedure will be completed for that part of the exam, and he/she may get dressed to go home.

How long does this test take?

Start to finish, the entire barium enema test usually takes 20-30 minutes. Sometimes, you will be asked to return on the following day for follow-up x-rays. These will only be regular x-rays and another enema is not needed. If you are asked to return the next day for follow-up films, this will generally take less time.