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Radiology (Xray)

Barium Enema

IntroductionShow [+]Hide [-]

This information is designed to give you some details about the Barium Enema procedure, to help you prepare for your examination and to give you some idea of what to expect when you attend.



What is a Barium Enema?Show [+]Hide [-]

A Barium Enema is an X-ray examination to demonstrate the large bowel, which cannot be seen in a normal X-ray of the abdomen. A barium liquid is used to outline the large bowel so that it may be examined using X-rays.



What if I cannot attend my appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

If your appointment time is not convenient it is essential you contact the hospital department that you are attending immediately (see above for appointments’ telephone numbers), so that a more appropriate time can be arranged.  This will enable us to reallocate valuable time to someone else.



Do I need any special preparation before the examination?Show [+]Hide [-]

If the examination is to be successful it is important that your bowel should be empty before the examination begins.


Printed instructions and some sachets of a laxative medicine will be given to you with your appointment details. Please follow the instructions carefully.



What are the benefits of having a Barium Enema?Show [+]Hide [-]

This procedure will help us make the correct diagnosis so we will be able to give you the correct treatment.



What are the risks of having a Barium EnemaShow [+]Hide [-]

We are all exposed to natural background radiation every day of our lives. Each x-ray examination gives us a small additional dose. This dose varies with each type of examination. Everything is done within the X-ray department to minimise this dose. X-rays may be harmful to an unborn child, especially in the earlier stages of pregnancy. Women should only have this test if any of the following apply:

·        you are taking the pill.

·        you have been sterilised or had a hysterectomy.

·        you have been fitted with a coil (IUD).

·        your appointment date is within 10 days of the start of your last menstrual period.

·        your husband or partner has had a vasectomy



I am a diabetic. Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes.  The preparation procedure may change. Please ring the appropriate helpline telephone number at the hospital you are attending your appointment, as above, and speak to a member of the medical staff.  (see next question also)


For further information, please click on the link below to read/print the document about the protocols for diabetic patients.


'The Management of Diabetic Patients in Radiology'.



I take Metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet) Tablets. Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

Yes - Metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet) is most commonly taken by diabetic patients to control blood sugar, but occasionally is taken for other conditions.


If you are taking Metformin (Glucophage, Avandamet), your preparation for the procedure may change.  Please ring the appropriate help-line telephone number, as in question above, and speak to a member of staff, who will be able to advise you. 



What does the examination involve?Show [+]Hide [-]

A radiographer or nurse will ask you to undress and put on a hospital

gown. An X-ray of your abdomen will be taken to ensure that your bowel is clear, before the examination proceeds.


During the examination you will be given a small injection to relax your muscles.


You will then be asked to lie on the examination couch and the procedure will be explained. You will be asked to turn on your side and a doctor may wish to examine your rectum before inserting a small rubber tube. Warmed barium solution is allowed to run slowly into your bowel through this tube and is observed on the X-ray equipment.  You will be asked to turn into different positions so that all the twists and turns of your bowel can be seen, before the barium is allowed to drain away.


Some air is then introduced to distend and expand the bowel so that its barium-covered walls can be seen clearly before the radiographer takes a series of pictures in different positions.  At this point you may feel a little full and windy!

When the examination is complete, the tube is removed and you will be shown into a small rest room so that you can use the toilet. You may have further X-ray films taken before being able to dress, have a cup of tea and go home or return to your ward.



Will I have any side effects following the examination?Show [+]Hide [-]

An injection of Buscopan is used during this procedure. It is given to make your bowel muscles relax. This injection will make your mouth feel dry and you may have blurred vision. These effects usually disappear within half an hour. However, you should not drive until your vision has returned. Other eye problems, such as pain or redness are rare.  It is possible that your stools may be white and hard for a couple of days. You may suffer a little from constipation and need to take a mild laxative. Drink plenty of water.



How long will it take?Show [+]Hide [-]

The examination should be complete in approximately one and a half hours - however, it would be helpful to keep at least the half day free.



Can I drive home?Show [+]Hide [-]

There is usually no reason why you should not drive home once your vision has returned.



What about the results?Show [+]Hide [-]

A report will be sent to the consultant or GP who requested the procedure, within two weeks of your examination.



I need an ambulance. Do you arrange one?Show [+]Hide [-]

If you need an ambulance, you must ask your GP Surgery to arrange one, but you will need to give them three working days notice.  Please inform the department if you are arriving by ambulance as we will arrange your appointment time to fit with ambulance arrivals.



What if I have any comments, questions or suggestions?Show [+]Hide [-]

Should you have any worries or concerns, please make these known to the person conducting the examination or by letter addressed to the Departmental Manager at the appropriate hospital, as below:


Royal Victoria Infirmary


The Departmental Manager

Xray Department, Level 3

Queen Victoria Road                             

Royal Victoria Infirmary

Newcastle upon Tyne  NE1 4LP


Tel: (0191) 282 1099


Freeman Hospital

The Departmental Manager

Main Xray Department

Freeman Hospital

High Heaton

Newcastle upon Tyne



Tel: (0191) 282 1099


All Newcastle Hospitals: Switchboard Tel: (0191) 233 6161


If you need to turn to someone for on-the-spot help, advice and support, please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on:


Freephone 0800-032-02-02


Due to the transformations of the Newcastle Hospitals, please see 'Patient and Visitor Guides' to check map details for updates.

Alternatively, please see map details on how to get to the new Victoria Wing, RVI.

All patient information is available in large print size for people with visual impairments or partial vision.  Please click on the link above, 'large print size' to view and print the document or alternatively, please click on the large 'A' at the top of the screen to read this information on-line.

Produced by: Dr J Rose, Clinical Directorate of Radiology

More information

You can get more details about appointments at the: 

  • RVI - tel: 0191 282 5627
  • Freeman Hospital - tel: 0191 223 1012
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