What is a Barium Enema?

Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN
Last Modified: June 16, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
What is a Barium Enema?  


Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN OncoLink's Clinical Trials Coordinator, responds:

A barium enema uses barium sulfate, a radiopaque contrast that allows the bowel to be viewed with an x-ray. The test requires a bowel preparation the day before the procedure, which may include a laxative, enema, and clear liquid diet, to rid the colon of any stool. The barium is infused through a tube in the rectum, into the colon. The patient is placed on a table that moves in various directions to fully visualize the colon while the x-rays are taken. This test can be used to diagnose tumors, bowel obstruction, and other abnormalities including ulcerative colitis.