How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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

To empty your colon, you may be asked to:

  • Follow a special diet the day before the exam. You may be asked not to eat and to drink only clear liquids — such as water, tea or coffee without milk or cream, broth, and clear carbonated beverages.
  • Fast after midnight. Usually, you'll be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight before the exam.
  • Take a laxative the night before the exam. A laxative, in a pill or liquid form, will help empty your colon.
  • 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 — that provides a cleansing solution to remove any residue in your colon.
  • Ask your doctor about your medications. At least a week before your exam, talk with your doctor about the medications you normally take. He or she may ask you to stop taking them days or hours before the exam.
May 24, 2014