What is this test?
A barium and/or air enema (or lower GI
series) is a test used to study the large bowel.
X-rays are taken while contrast is put
through the rectum and visualized as it
moves through the entire colon until it
reaches the small bowel. The test helps
detect abnormal changes in the large bowel
(colon). The enema, along with
colonoscopy, remains standard in the
diagnosis of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis,
and other diseases of the colon.
What do I need to do to get ready for this
Your doctor’s office will schedule this
exam. If you have questions please call the
(608) 263 XRAY (608-263-9729), press 1
Date and time to check in:
Tell your Doctor and Radiologist if you
ξ Chance of being
ξ History of bowel
ξ History of rectal
ξ Severe or chronic
ξ Other tests
ξ Kidney disease
ξ Heart problems
ξ Chronic colitis
If you have any of these conditions, you may
need different bowel prep.
If you are taking medicines, check with
your doctor or radiologist to find out if they
should be taken within the 24 hours before
What do I need to know to get
ready for the test?
For this test to be accurate, you must have an
empty bowel. To do this, you will follow a
clear liquid diet and take laxatives. A few
days before the test, go to your local
drugstore and buy these over-the-counter
ξ 1 bottle of magnesium citrate 10
ounces (It is easier to drink chilled.)
ξ Bisacodyl tablets 20 milligrams
What do I need to do to get ready
the day before the test?
You will eat and drink only clear liquids the
day before the test.
ξ Clear broth or
ξ Juice without pulp:
ξ Boost Breeze®
ξ Coffee or tea, no
ξ Clear Jell-O®, with
nothing in it
ξ Clear hard candy
ξ Sparkling water or
No juices with pulp (orange, tomato,
prune juice, lemonade) or dairy products
of any kind.
The Bowel Prep
Clear Liquids only
Be sure to drink 8 glasses (8-ounces each) of
water, between noon and 11:00 pm, unless
your fluid intake is restricted.
You may want to take these bowel preps
earlier in the day than the schedule below.
Do not take either of these at work and
expect to travel home, without needing a
5:30 pm: Drink magnesium citrate 10
8:00 pm: Take bisacodyl tablets 20
milligrams (mg.). Do not chew or crush.
These will cause you to have loose bowel
Have nothing to eat or drink after
midnight, unless your doctor has told you to
take pills with a sip of water.
If the procedure is scheduled in the
afternoon, a liquid breakfast is permitted.
On the day of the exam, if you are still
having solid stools, please call
608-263-8351 between 8:00 and 8:15 am
and leave a message. Please include your
name and phone number, with area code.
We will call you back.
What do I need to know the day of
A small tube will be put into your rectum
and the contrast will flow into your bowel.
As the contrast fills your colon, you may
have cramps or feel like you need to move
your bowels. We will give you medicine if
needed to relieve the pain. Your doctor will
watch your bowel as it fills with contrast on
a TV-like screen. The lights will be dim so
your doctor can see more clearly. The
whirring noise you hear is made by the x-ray
The doctor may press on your abdomen to
help spread the barium through your bowel.
You will be asked to turn from side to side
so different views of your bowel can be
seen. This will take 10- 20 minutes.
Before you go to the bathroom to expel the
barium, the technologist may take several
more x-rays with you in different positions.
You will be asked to wait while the doctor
checks the x-rays. If the doctor wishes to
look at part of your bowel from another
angle, we will take more x-rays.
If you have a “double contrast study”, the
large bowel is coated with barium and filled
with air to make it appear see-through on the
x-ray. You may feel some cramping and
fullness. Please tell your doctor. You may
need medicine to relieve this. You will be
asked to roll on all sides and stand while the
doctor takes x-rays. This test will take 20-
What do I need to know after the
The radiologist will talk with your doctor or
ordering provider about the results of your
exam. Your doctor or ordering provider will
talk over the test results with you and make
plans for further treatment, if need.
You will have white colored bowel
movements for a day or two. This is normal.
Drink plenty of fluids to help move the
barium out. You may need to take 2
Tablespoons of Milk of Magnesia® to help
you expel the contrast. Ask the doctor.
You may go back to your own diet unless
your doctor tells you something else.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4366.