Barium Enema

Barium Enema at Methodist Health System

What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is an X-ray examination of the large intestine (colon). The barium is used to makes the colon visible on the X-ray film.

There are two types of barium enema:

  • In a single-contrast study, the colon is filled with barium and the X-ray is taken right away. This shows the shape of the colon’s lining and reveals large abnormalities.
  • In a double-contrast or air-contrast study, the colon is filled with barium and then drained out, leaving a thin layer of barium on the colon walls. The colon is then filled with air, and the X-ray is taken. This produces a more detailed image of the colon, revealing smaller growths.

The type of barium enema is used depends on a person’s age, medical condition, and the results of other tests.

Who needs a barium enema?

A barium enema is often recommended for people with symptoms that point to a possible cancer in the colon, such as a change in bowel habits, lower abdominal pain, or blood, mucus, or pus in the stool.