Flexible Sigmoidoscopy with Barium Enemia (BE)

What is it?

A barium enema is an x-ray test of the rectum and large intestine (colon). For the test, contrast material/dye (barium) is infused into your rectum and colon through a tube that is placed into your anus. The barium travels through your rectum and around the length of your colon. X-rays are then taken of your abdomen to identify any abnormalities in your rectum and/or colon. The barium blocks x-rays, causing the rectum and large intestine to show up clearly on x-ray pictures. 

Why do I need it?

A barium enema is most often used to screen for colon cancer when traditional endoscopic methods of colon cancer screening, i.e. colonoscopy, are not feasible. The barium enema will identify large colon masses as well as moderate-to-large colon polyps. It is also sometimes used to detect inflammation and strictures in the rectum and colon.   

The risks  

A barium enema is very safe. On rare occasions, the barium remaining in the colon hardens and can cause constipation or even colon obstruction. It can also inflame areas in the colon. Finally, on very rare occasions, the pressure from the barium or air (if air is used for your test) can weaken a section of your colon and cause it to break open or perforate. This requires surgical intervention to correct. 

The preparation

The preparation for the test is the same as for a standard colonoscopy. Usually the night before, you must prep with a colon-cleansing product to clear the stool from your colon. This will ensure that your physician has optimal visualization of your colon during the test. You will receive additional instructions for the prep that was recommended to you.  Gatorade Miralax Pep.

The procedure

While you are lying on your side, a small tube will be inserted gently through your anus. The barium material will then be infused into your rectum and colon. You will be asked to turn and move into different positions to better allow the barium to reach your entire colon. Someone may also press gently on your abdomen. X-rays will be taken throughout the test.       

After the procedure

To decrease the risk of barium-hardening as described above, you should drink extra fluids, such as water, following your procedure. You may resume your regular diet unless otherwise instructed. Your bowel movements may look white or pinkish over the next one to two days following the procedure. If you experience any anal discomfort after the procedure, a warm Sitz bath or a local anesthetic salve, like Preparation H, can help.