Your doctor may recommend a barium enema exam to:

  • Investigate intestinal signs and symptoms. A barium enema can help your doctor explore possible causes of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits, chronic diarrhea and other intestinal problems.
  • Identify specific colon problems. A barium enema can help your doctor identify growths (polyps) in your colon, diverticulitis or other colon problems.

In addition, a double-contrast barium enema may also detect cancer. If any growths (polyps) are detected during a barium enema, a follow-up colonoscopy may be needed. However, newer techniques, such as CT colonography, may be used instead of barium enema because newer techniques can produce better images.

Barium enema exams generally aren't done during pregnancy.

Jun. 17, 2011