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What can I expect during a barium enema x-ray?

At the time of a barium enema examination (an x-ray procedure to examine the lower gastrointestinal [GI] tract), a barium mixture is instilled through an enema tip placed in the rectum by the radiologist. This procedure may cause some discomfort but is not painful. As it is instilled, the radiologist will examine and film the flow of barium. Sometimes, air is added to the barium mixture. The patient will be asked to move to several different positions. Patients should try to relax and hold their breath when instructed so as to avoid blurred radiographs. When the radiologist has completed his or her portion of the exam, a radiologic technologist will take several more films to demonstrate various portions of the large bowel. Once the film sequence is finished, the technologist will assist the patient to the toilet. Afterward one or more films will be taken to demonstrate the emptied bowel.

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