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Adult Barium Enema

Patient Information Sheet
Palo Alto Medical Foundation Department of Radiology Palo Alto

For your convenience you may wish to print this page and write in the time and location of your appointment. If you have any questions or concerns about the test please give us a call at (650) 853-2955.

Time: ____________________ Date:_______________________

Radiology Department Location:

Palo Alto
795 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 853-2955

Read all directions before you begin. If you are a diabetic taking insulin, contact your personal physician before continuing the preparation. If you are unable to take the provided laxative, castor oil may be substituted. Instructions may be obtained from the Department of Radiology.

A barium enema is an x-ray examination of the lower bowel, or colon, by a water enema containing barium sulfate. Sometimes air will also be used (not usually used with children). This allows the inside of the colon to be seen on a fluoroscope and on x-ray films.

It is necessary that the colon be as empty as possible. For this you will be given a very strong laxative the evening before the study. This will probably cause considerable diarrhea and may cause some discomfort, usually in the late evening or early in the morning. In 10 or 15 percent of the cases, the diarrhea may continue into the afternoon or evening of the day of the examination. If this should be severe enough to require treatment, contact your personal physician. The possibility of such an occurrence should be considered in scheduling an important business or social event the evening before or the day and evening of the examination.

After the examination, it is important to drink as much liquid as is comfortable to replace the fluid you have lost. You may not have a bowel movement other than barium for a day or so. You should have no trouble getting rid of the barium if you are troubled by constipation, a mild laxative of your choice may be advisable.

Preparation for Adult Barium Enema

Your preparation for the examination is exceedingly important. It may well determine whether or not the examination is successful. Follow these directions carefully. Eat nothing else. Necessary medication may be taken with a small amount of water. If you are allergic to vanilla, notify the Department of Radiology immediately.


Two days before examination:

Clear liquids as desired. Minimum 16 oz. for each meal.

Clear liquids may include water, beer, wine, fruit juices (no citrus juices), popsicles, Jello, bouillon, tea or black coffee. Do not include milk or other dairy products!

Day before examination:

Breakfast - clear liquids as desired



6 p.m. - 1 1/2 ounces Fleet phosphosoda (square, clear bottle) mixed with 4 ounces water. When finished, drink an additional 8 ounces of water. The enema's effects may be immediate. Please be prepared.

7 p.m. - at least 8 ounces of clear liquid

8 p.m. - at least 8 ounces of clear liquid

9 p.m. - at least 8 ounces of clear liquid
Before retiring swallow 4 yellow Bisacodyl tablets with water (do not chew).

Morning of examination:

Breakfast - Nothing

1 - 2 hours before examination - Fleet Bisacodyl Enema (see instructions below)

Fleet Bisacodyl Enema - Do at home before leaving for exam.

Directions for Use:


There are two suitable positions for administering the enema:

1. Left-side position:
Lie on left side with knees bent, arms at rest.

2. Knee-chest position:
Kneel, then lower head and chest forward until left side of face is resting on surface. Position arms comfortably.

ADMINISTERING ENEMA: enema illustration

1. Shake bottle well.

2. Remove protective shield from rectal tip: Hold bottle upright, grasping grooved bottle cap with fingers. Grasp protective shield with other hand. Pull gently to remove. (See illustration.)

3. With steady pressure, gently insert enema tip in rectum, with tip pointing toward your navel. Squeeze bottle until nearly all liquid is expelled. Remove tip from rectum. A small amount of liquid will remain in bottle after squeezing. Maintain position for 5 to 10 minutes, if possible.

WARNING: Frequent or prolonged use of any laxative may result in dependence. Do not use when nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain is present. If use results in unusual pain or other side effects, contact a physician. Keep this and all medication out of reach of children. In case of accidental overdose or ingestion, contact the nearest poison control center.