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Preparing for a Barium Enema Test in Children: Care Instructions


A barium (sometimes called a contrast) enema test is an X-ray of your child's large intestine (colon and rectum). It can help find diseases and other problems that affect the large intestine, such as constipation, intussusception, and Hirschsprung disease.

Before the X-ray, your child will be given an enema that contains barium. Barium is also called contrast material. It is put into your child's intestine through a tube that's placed in the rectum. The barium helps your child's large intestine show up clearly on the X-ray picture.

A barium enema can be uncomfortable. But usually the test doesn't take long.

After the test, your child may have white or greyish stools and cramping for a few days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Before a barium enema, tell the doctor if your child:
    • Is allergic to barium.
    • Had an upper GI barium test or barium swallow recently.
    • Is allergic to latex. Latex products are often used to give the barium. If your child is allergic to latex, different products will be used.
  • Your doctor will tell you how to help your child prepare for the test.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now if:

  • Your child isn't able to follow the directions to prepare for the test. These directions are to make sure that there's no stool in your child's colon. If you don't follow the instructions, the examination may need to be done at another time.
  • Your child has severe belly pain after the test.
  • Your child is not able to have a bowel movement after the test.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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