Your doctor has scheduled a defecography
for you. This handout will tell you how to
prepare for the exam and what will happen
to you during the procedure. If you have any
questions, be sure to ask your nurse or
Your doctor will schedule your exam for
you. If you have questions, you may call
Radiology at (608) 263-8351.
Let Us Know If
ξ There is any chance you may be
ξ You have had a rectal surgery in the
ξ You have a history of chronic colitis.
ξ You have renal (kidney) disease.
ξ You have heart problems.
ξ You have diabetes.
If you have any of these conditions, you may
need instructions other than the ones given
in this handout.
If you have other tests scheduled before
your defecography, ask your doctor if you
need to change your preparation schedule.
If you are taking medicines, check with
your doctor or the radiologist to see if the
medicines should be taken during the 24
hours before the exam.
What Is a Defecography?
Defecography involves taking an x-ray of
the rectum and sigmoid (or lower) portion of
the colon while you are emptying barium
from your bowel. In order to see details of
the rectum, your rectum will be filled with
barium. If you are a woman, your small
bowel and vagina will also be filled with
barium. For the best results, you need a
clean and empty colon.
How to Prepare for the
To clean out the bowel, you will need to
follow a clear liquid diet. Clear liquids
ξ clear broth
ξ consommé (such as Campbell’s beef
ξ coffee or tea (no cream; sugar is OK)
ξ clear Jell-O® (do not add fresh or
ξ clear fruit juices or drinks –
cranberry, grape, or apple (Hi-C ,
ξ clear hard candy
ξ ice made from cranberry, apple, or
ξ carbonated drinks such as ginger ale,
7-Up , Sprite
If you do not have any of the conditions
listed on page one, please follow the
ξ Breakfast, the Day before the
Start your clear liquid diet at
breakfast. Do not drink cola, milk,
orange juice, or tomato juice.
ξ Starting at 12:00 Noon
Between noon and 11 p.m., drink
eight (8-ounce) glasses of water,
unless your fluid intake is restricted.
Be sure to have a clear liquid lunch
ξ At 5:00 p.m.
Have a clear liquid dinner.
ξ At 5:30 p.m.
Drink a bottle (10 ounces) of
magnesium citrate. This laxative can
be purchased without a prescription
from any drugstore.
ξ At 8:00 p.m.
Take 20 milligrams of bisacodyl
tablets, either four tablets of 5 mg
each or two tablets of 10 mg each.
Bisacodyl can be purchased without
a prescription from any drugstore.
Swallow the tablets whole; do not
chew or crush.
ξ After Midnight
Do not eat or drink anything.
ξ The Morning of the Defecography
No breakfast or liquids should be
taken. If you have been advised to
take any prescribed medicine, take it
with only a small sip of water.
The Day of the Exam
If you are an inpatient, you will be taken to
If you are an outpatient, please go to
Radiology in G3/3 (Atrium elevators to the
3rd floor) at the scheduled time. They will
give you a robe and gown to put on.
You will be asked to drink two cups of
barium one hour in advance. This allows the
small bowel loops in the pelvis to be seen.
If you are a woman, at the start of the
procedure, a small amount of barium liquid
will be placed in the vagina.
A lubricated tube will be placed into your
rectum. Barium paste is used to fill the
rectum. Using a fluoroscope, a screen like
the one on a TV set, the radiologist will
watch your rectum empty while you sit on a
special commode. The lights in the room
will be dimmed so the doctor can see the
screen more clearly. The x-ray machine
makes a whining noise you will hear.
Pictures will be taken during the exam. This
part of the exam takes only a few minutes.
You may then expel any remaining barium
in a nearby bathroom. You will be asked to
wait while the radiologist checks the films.
If you are a woman, please allow 1½ - 2
hours for the entire exam. For men, the
exam takes about 30 minutes.
After the Defecography
The radiologist will consult with your doctor
about the findings of your exam. Your
doctor will then discuss the results of the
exam with you and suggest further
treatment, if needed.
Ask the doctor if you should take two
tablespoons of milk of magnesia to help you
expel any extra barium in your bowel.
You may notice that your bowel movements
are whitish in color for a day or two. This is
normal. This whitish color is caused by the
traces of barium still in your bowel. Drink
plenty of fluids to help wash the barium out.
You may go back to your usual diet unless
your doctor tells you otherwise.
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#4875.