How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Before a barium enema exam, you'll need to clean out (empty) your colon. Any residue in your colon may obscure the X-ray images or be mistaken for an abnormality.

To empty your colon, follow your doctor's instructions carefully. You may be asked to:

  • Follow a special diet the day before the exam. Typically, you won't be able to eat the day before the exam. Drinks may be limited to clear liquids — such as plain water, tea and coffee without milk or cream, broth, and clear carbonated beverages. You may not be able to eat or drink anything after midnight the day of the exam.
  • Take a laxative the night before the exam. The laxative may be in pill or liquid form.
  • Use an enema kit. In some cases, you may need to use an over-the-counter enema kit — either the night before the exam or a few hours before the exam — to empty your colon.
  • Adjust your usual medications. Remind your doctor of your medications at least a week before the exam. You may need to temporarily stop taking certain medications days or hours before the exam.
Jun. 17, 2011