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Barium enema patient information

Your understanding of the treatments and tests you receive is very important to everyone at Community Howard Regional Health System. Therefore, this information is meant to acquaint you with standard procedures followed in a routine barium enema exam. This information provides you with the basic facts and information about this test. Read the material, share it with your family and ask any clarifying questions of the nurse or technologist.


A barium enema is an x-ray examination of the large intestine (colon), which is the final portion of the digestive tract. The large intestine becomes visible on an x-ray after a solution of barium is put into the colon by means of an enema. X-rays are directed toward you that bounce off the barium inside and cast shadows on the x-ray film. The film serves as a permanent record, and is studied by a radiologist, who is trained in reading x-rays.


Please obtain one bottle of Magnesium Citrate and one box of Dulcolax Suppositories from any pharmacy (over-the-counter, no prescription required) and then follow the instructions below.

The day before the test

  1. Your diet will be restricted to clear liquids. Liquids are considered clear if they can be held up to the light and seen through. This can include clear fruit juices, clear soup, plain black coffee, tea, and JELL-O.
  2. Drink a lot of fluid that day. Drink no less than one 8 oz. glass of water every 2 hours from noon to midnight.
    1. At 4:00 PM- drink one bottle of Magnesium Citrate over ice, follow with 8 oz. water
      adults (12 years and older) – 10 fluid oz. Or 1 whole bottle
      children 11-6 years old – 7 fluid oz.
      children 5-2 years old – 3 fluid oz.
  3. At 5:00 PM- dinner- clear liquids of any amount. You are not to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum after midnight.
  4. Insert one Dulcolax suppository at least one hour before bedtime.

The day of the test

  1. Do not eat breakfast before your x-ray. Drink 1 1/2 12 oz glasses of water.
  2. Insert one Dulcolax suppository at least one hour before leaving home.
  3. Have nothing else to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum until after the exam.
  4. Necessary medications may be taken with a sip of water.
  5. You may brush your teeth but avoid swallowing any water.
  6. Arrive at Community Howard Regional Health System’s Registration Department 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.


  1. The x-ray technologist will position you on the table and will explain the procedure in more detail. An enema tip will be placed into your rectum in order to pass fluids into your colon.
  2. The radiologist will administer the barium solution. If your doctor also ordered an air contrast study, thicker barium will be used to coat the bowel. Air is then carefully pumped into the bowel through the enema tip to distend it. X-rays are taken during this time.
  3. From time to time, you will be asked to remain perfectly still and to hold your breath. You may be rotated into slightly different positions during the examination. The doctor may put in additional barium if needed.
  4. When the examination is over, most of the time barium is drained out. Your x-rays are checked, and you will be free to leave. Occasionally, more x-rays may be needed if some necessary information was omitted. Once you leave you may have breakfast.
  5. It is important to eat well and drink plenty of fluids to help evacuate the barium. Before bedtime you may use a laxative to help clear the digestive tract of the barium.
  6. The radiologist will study your x-rays and give his/her impression to your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you and what they mean in relation to your health.

Your comfort during this procedure is very important to the staff at Community Howard Regional Health System. Please let the technologist know if there is something that can be done to make you more comfortable during this procedure. If you have other questions not answered here, please don’t hesitate to call the Imaging Services Department at (765) 453-8413. Thank you for allowing us to service your healthcare needs.

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