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Barium Enema

The Imaging Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital provides advanced imaging services to obtain the safest and highest quality images for your child. Caring for children of all ages, from fetal life to young adulthood, our team combines specialty expertise with a focus on each child’s individual needs to ensure the most accurate diagnostics.

A barium enema is an X-ray that can detect abnormalities in the lower digestive tract (colon and rectum). Our trained radiologists and technologists do this by using an X-ray machine and a liquid which contains barium (contrast agent) that is administered to your child.

The barium coats the lining of the colon which results in a clear silhouette image in the X-ray. During the procedure, air may be injected into the colon to expand the organ and generate better quality images. From start to finish, the procedure can take 30 minutes to an hour.

Doctors may recommend this procedure to diagnose why a child is having difficulty with bowel movements, abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss. The procedure can also detect abnormal growths (polyps) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

Preparing for the Exam

There are specific preparations required that our team will discuss with you at the time we schedule your child’s appointment. In some cases, your child will need to avoid eating 24 hours prior to the exam and take an at-home enema or laxatives to clean the colon.

The day of the exam, we’ll ask that you:

  • Dress your child comfortably in clothes that are easily removed
  • Bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the exam
  • Let the technologists know if your child takes certain medications, has allergies, has had surgery, may be pregnant, or has any health condition.

You or both parents or guardians can stay with your child in the X-ray room and will be given a lead apron for your safety. Pregnant women aren’t allowed in the X-ray room and will be asked to stay in the waiting room.

Before the exam, the technologist will explain the procedure to both you and your child. One of our Child Life Specialists will also be available to help you prepare and support your child during the procedure.

What Should I Expect During the Exam?

Your child will wear a gown and have all eyewear, jewelry and temporary dental devices removed.  Working together, the radiologist and technician will begin the exam.

Your child will lie on the table while the X-ray machine called a fluoro tower is brought overhead. The fluoro tower has a curtain on it so it's like being in a tent or a small car wash. You, the doctor, and your child will be able to see the images on a television monitor in the room.

For the enema, a tiny, lubricated tube will be used to enter the rectum. The tube will be connected to a bag containing the contrast agent and held in place by a special tape.

The radiologist will have your child roll from side-to-side in order to get different pictures of the colon.

After your child's large bowel has been evaluated, we’ll remove the tube and ask your child to go the bathroom or place them in a diaper until they have a bowel movement. Afterwards, we may take additional pictures.

Throughout the process, our team will help your child understand and cope with this exam.

After the Exam

After the exam, it’s important to give your child lots of water as the barium may cause constipation. When your child goes to the bathroom, their bowel movement may appear white or grayish due to the barium. This will return to normal after one or two days.

Test Results

Our SLUCare Physician Group radiologist will interpret the images the same day and send a report to your child's pediatrician. It may take several days for the pediatrician to view the report and make clinical decisions on the next step. Please call your child’s doctor with any questions you may have about the results.

At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, we look forward to caring for your child. With an experienced staff and state-of-the-art imaging technology, you can count on us to deliver the excellent care your child needs. To schedule your appointment today, please call 314-577-5652.

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