What are the Risks of Doing Barium Enema?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 23, 2013

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Risks of Doing Barium Enema

Barium enema is a diagnostic procedure used to obtain a clear image of the colon. Since x-rays are not able to penetrate through liquid barium metal, it is used as a chalk lining to obtain a clear image of the colon. Liquid barium metal is prepared in a thick viscous form and introduced into the body through the process of enema. On spreading far and wide over the crevices and folds of the colon, through movements and medication, x-rays are then taken of the colon. In the presence of the liquid barium, the x-ray shows a clear outline of the colon, which helps to identify any suspected diseases.


[Read: Why Barium Enema is done]


A barium enema is a short procedure lasting between twenty minutes to half an hour and requires simple preparation. Since the procedure involves the introduction of foreign substances into the body, a certain degree of risks are involved, which one should be aware of before taking on the procedure. Additionally, the use of multiple x-rays exposes the patient to an amount of radiations, which might be harmful depending on the patient’s past exposure to radiations.

Following are the risks that one might be susceptible to when undergoing the barium enema procedure:

  1. Bowel Perforation:  It is a condition in which a tiny tear appears in the bowel, which could result in fatality. The possibility of this condition occurring is not very high and most likely only in cases, where the patient already suffers from inflammation of the large bowel.
  2. Exposure to Radiation: If a patient has been exposed to radiations several times before the procedure, it is then advisable to avoid a barium enema. Based on the history of the patient and exposure to radiations, the procedure must be considered. 
  3. Allergies:  If a patient is allergic to latex or barium, it might pose a problem, if it is not detected before the procedure is conducted. If the said allergies are identified and the physician in charge is informed, alternatives can be used to carry out the procedure.

    [Read: How Barium Enema is performed]

  4. Chemical Peritonitis:  During the barium enema procedure, the lining of the abdominal cavity might become infected due to various reasons. This condition is called chemical peritonitis.
  5. Stomach Cramps: Post the barium enema procedure, a patient might feel varying degrees of stomach cramps that could cause a large degree of discomfort for a while.
  6. Reaction to medication used: An injection is sometimes administered to relax the wall muscles of the colon, during the barium enema procedure. In certain cases, the patient might be allergic to the medication used, which may cause some blurred vision for an hour or so. If this happens, it is best not to drive until this passes.
  7. Constipation: On completion of the procedure, a patient might experience the condition of constipation. It is advisable for a patient to consume large amounts of fluids & water and maintain a fruit diet till all the barium is flushed out of the system. In case the constipation persists over three days, the physician should be informed.


[Read: What is Barium Enema?]


Barium enema is a fairly simple diagnostic procedure adopted to check for diseases in the colon area, however, with the above mentioned risks involved, one should clear all possibilities with the physician before going in for the procedure.



Read more articles on Barium Enema.

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