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A Barium enema is a diagnostic test using barium to coat the lining of the rectum to see the lower intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. Barium is a milky fluid that absorbs x-rays.
A well-lubricated enema tube is gently inserted into the rectum. Barium is injected through this tube into the colon and rectum. A small balloon at the end of the tube is inflated to keep the barium inside. X-rays are taken. After x-rays are taken, the enema tube is removed and you will be shown to the bathroom to eliminate the barium fluid.
After expelling the barium, the enema tube is reinserted. A small amount of air will be passed into the colon, and more x-rays are taken. The tube is then removed. You will again go to the bathroom to expel air and any remaining barium.
One to two hours
You may feel some discomfort when the enema tube is inserted. During the test, you may feel some discomfort, including bloating and severe cramping. You may feel as if you need to move your bowels.
A radiologist will examine the x-rays. (In rare cases, if the x-rays are blurred, the test may have to be repeated.) Usually within a few days, your doctor will tell you the results. If results are abnormal, your doctor will recommend follow-up testing and treatment options.
(References: National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, University of Iowa Department of Radiology, The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Merck & Co., Inc., 2000.)
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