Barium Enema

What is a Barium Enema?

A Barium Enema is a type of radiology examination to check the abnormalities of the large intestine. In this procedure, the examination involves inserting the Barium mixture and air into the rectum. An x-ray is taken afterwards.

How is it done?

Patients will be asked to change into a hospital gown. The nurse will insert the enema tube into the rectum.  A barium mixture will then flow into the rectum, filling up the entire large bowel. In most cases, air will be used to push the barium along and to distend the bowel. X-ray will be taken and a radiologist will report the results.

Why is it done?

This is an investigation to find out the abnormalities of the large intestine i.e. tumors, cancer or obstruction in the large intestines, etc.

Risks & complications

The risks of Barium Enema are as follows:

  • After the examination, the patient may be constipated. Therefore, after the examination, it is strongly recommended that large amounts of water and vegetables should be consumed. In the case where a patient has a history of constipation, laxatives may be used in order to prevent constipation. The radiologist will decide accordingly.
  • In rare cases, some patient may develop allergic reactions to certain brand of Barium sulfate. Therefore, if there is a history of allergic reactions, the radiologist must be consulted before hand.
  • As this examination involves using x-ray, it is not recommended for patients who are pregnant.
  • In rare cases, there is a risk of bowel perforation. The barium sulfate may leak from large intestine into the abdominal cavity which may cause infection. In high risk cases, the doctor will consider using another kind of contrast media (water soluble) or another procedures altogether.


The radiologist may discuss alternative approaches to the Barium Enema procedure. Alternatives include Colonoscopy and Virtual colonoscopy.

Candidate eligibility

The best Barium Enema candidates are in the following cases:

  • Any  patient  who has no signs or symptoms, as part of a check up procedure; or
  • For patients who are  found to have abnormal signs and symptoms such as melena stool, chronic diarrhea and constipation, weight loss and abdominal mass.


Digestive Disease (G-I) Center
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