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A barium enema is a diagnostic test of the large intestine (colon) which uses a contrast medium called barium to visualize and assess the anatomy and function of the rectum, colon and part of the lower small intestine.

Who performs the procedure?

The procedure is performed by a Radiologist with the assistance of a Technologist.

Why is this procedure performed?

This procedure may be performed for several reasons. It may be performed to evaluate for:

  • Ulcers
  • Benign tumors (such as polyps)
  • Cancer
  • Signs of other intestinal illnesses.

Where is the procedure performed?

University Imaging Center
University of Maryland Professional Building, Suite 110
419 West Redwood Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

University of Maryland Medical Center
Department of Diagnostic Radiology, 2nd Floor
22 South Greene Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Is there any prep for this procedure?

Yes.  Please contact 410-328-3225 for latest instructions.

What can I expect before the procedure?

Once you arrive at the Imaging Center, you will have to register at the front desk. Please have your insurance information ready at this time. After registration, you will be taken to the Fluoroscopy Department where you will be instructed to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined

What can I expect during the procedure?

During this exam you will be on the fluoroscopy table. A preliminary x-ray will be taken of your abdomen to make sure that it is empty. The radiologist or technologist will then insert a small tube into the rectum and begin to pump barium into the colon. Air may also be injected through the tube to help the barium thoroughly coat the lining of the colon. You may feel some abdominal discomfort and the urge to use the bathroom when the contrast and air is introduced into your colon. In some circumstances, the radiologist or referring physician may prefer a water and iodine solution rather than barium.

Next, a series of fluoroscopic images is taken by the Radiologist. You will be asked to hold your breath and move in different positions during this exam. Upon completion of the fluoroscopic imaging performed by the Radiologist, the Technologist will take additional x-rays. After the x-rays are complete the tube is removed from your rectum and you are allowed to use the restroom.

After you use the restroom, one last x-ray is taken to see how your colon empties.

What can I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, you may experience your stool turning a grayish white from the barium. This is normal. Drink a lot of liquids to flush this barium out of your colon because it may cause constipation.

Are there any risks to this procedure?

There is a minimal risk of possibly perforating the bowel if too much air or contrast is inserted. There is also a very low risk that one may have from the exposure to radiation

Are there any alternatives to this procedure?

Virtual Colonoscopy or Conventional Colonoscopy both offer alternatives to this procedure.

How do I schedule an appointment?

Please contact the Radiology Access Center at 410-328-3225 to schedule an appointment.