Childr Health Information

Barium Enema (lower gastrointestinal series)

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Topic: Tests & Procedures

Welcome to Dayton Children’s. Your child is going to have a barium enema. It is very important for both you and your child to be prepared for the procedure. Being prepared will help you get your child ready for the test and support him/her through it. The information in this handout describes the barium enema test. It is designed to answer your questions and help you explain the test to your child. This information does not replace information given to you by your physician or other members of your child’s health care team.

What is a barium enema?

A barium enema is an x-ray test that looks at the large bowel. An enema solution made of barium is given to your child to outline the large bowel.

What happens during a barium enema?

The technologist will insert a small flexible tube into the rectum. The tube is then connected to a bag of the enema solution. The enema solution flows into the large bowel through this tube. The x-ray doctor (radiologist) watches the barium (which appears white on the x-ray) travel through the large bowel on a special television. Your child is then allowed to go to the bathroom. After your child tries to empty his/her bowel, another x-ray is taken to show the amount of barium remaining in the bowel. Sometimes additional films may be necessary. If your child’s bowel does not empty enough, you may be asked to return the next day for another picture.

What will my child feel during the barium enema?

Your child will not feel the x-ray camera taking pictures. Your child may feel some discomfort and pressure upon rectal insertion of the soft tube. Some children say this part of the test hurts a little, but many say it is simply uncomfortable. His/her belly may feel very full and crampy. As the large bowel is being filled, your child may feel a growing need to have a bowel movement. It is very important for your child not to move during the test. We may use small sandbags, blanket wraps, and/or velcro safety belts to position your child. If your child moves, we may have to take the x-ray pictures again.

How can I help prepare my child for the barium enema?

When and how to prepare your child for a barium enema depends on his/her age. For infants, no preparation is necessary, as long as you understand the procedure. Toddlers require very simple reparation and explanation just before the procedure begins. Older children require more detaed information in advance. Adolescents should be prepared far enough in advance to give them time to ask questions. It is important to tell your child what to expect, including the different sensations he/she may feel. Most children will be concerned about what they will feel throughout the test. Many ask if it will hurt. It is always important to be honest with your child. Share with your child that there will be no needles. Resist saying it won’t hurt. You can say, “Your test might feel uncomfortable for a short time but I will help you get through it." When you arrive for your appointment, a staff member will discuss the procedure in an age appropriate way with your child. They will address any concerns that you or your child may have and if necessary help him/her come up with some ways to get through the procedure. At Dayton Children’s, we take these extra steps because our goal is to decrease your child’s anxiety and make this experience as comfortable as possible. Your child will be in the room about 45-minutes.

How can I help my child during the barium enema?

Many times the mere presence of a parent or caregiver is enough to soothe a child. Two parents are welcome in the room while we explain, discuss and perform the test. Other family members and pregnant women will be asked to wait in our waiting room. If your child has a special toy or blanket that provides a sense of security to them, please bring the item with you. Many children benefit from distraction. You may bring a favorite picture book or simply talk to your child. Taking deep breaths with your child can help relax the body and relieve anxiety. Some children need to cry throughout the procedure. Crying is a healthy way of coping because it allows them to express their emotions.

What happens after the barium enema?

  1. Give your child lots to drink today (water or juices are best).
  2. Your child may have regular foods after the test is finished.
  3. Your child’s bowel movement may be chalky white today and tomorrow. This is normal. A report will be sent to your referring doctor, usually within a week.

For further questions about this test, please call Dayton Children’s Medical Imaging Department: 937-641-3888 or 1-800-228-4055.

PDF: Barium enema

Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Corregido: 2008

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Revised: 2008


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