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Barium Enema (cont.)

During the Barium Enema Procedure

Barium enema is performed at an outpatient X-ray center or in a major hospital. You usually go home the same day the procedure is done. You do not have to undergo anesthesia for this test but you may receive some medicine to reduce any abdominal cramping.

  • When you arrive, the staff will check when it was the last time that you had food or fluids.
  • You will remain awake throughout the barium enema procedure. The contrast material (barium) will be put into the rectum through a plastic tube. Aside from that discomfort, you may feel the pressure of the liquid that is being administered. Otherwise, pain should be minimal.
  • The duration of the whole procedure depends on the speed with which barium fills the necessary areas of interest, the number of images required to properly evaluate the colon, and whether additional barium or images are required. You may be asked to change your position on the table several times during the procedure. During the procedure, you will be asked to try to hold in (delay defecation) to the best of your ability for a part of the procedure time. Doctors doing the test can help you with this process. A single-contrast barium test takes about 30 to 45 minutes while a double-contrast test takes about an hour.

After the Barium Enema Procedure

Most people have a short recovery time and go home after the procedure.

  • The images are read by a qualified radiologist and/or gastroenterologist who communicates the findings to your doctor who may also opt to see the images. Your doctor usually calls you within a week with the results.
  • If there are abnormal results such as irregularities in the contour of the colon suggesting abnormal masses, your doctor will discuss additional diagnostic and management plans, which may include colonoscopy, biopsy and/or surgery.

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