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A contrast enema is an x-ray study that uses a water soluble contrast agent containing iodine or barium to show the structure of the rectum, colon and large intestine. Contrast enemas are commonly referred to as barium enemas.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches a contrast enema
Performing contrast enemas in children poses unique challenges. Diagnostic Radiology at Children's provides a soothing, kid-friendly environment.
What is a contrast enema?
Water soluble contrast is a clear liquid containing iodine, and barium is a milky-white contrast liquid. Both show up on x-ray and allow the radiologist to see parts of the body clearly. Most pediatric radiologists use water soluble contrast during contrast enemas. Both water soluble contrast and barium are effective and safe contrast agents for enemas in infants and children.
During a contrast enema study, a small tube is inserted into your child's rectum and the colon her large intestine are filled with contrast material.
Once the contrast fills the colon and large intestine, a special type of x-ray technology, called fluoroscopy, is used to take pictures of these organs.
Why might a contrast enema be needed?
A contrast enema is used to help find the cause of your child's symptoms and diagnose diseases and other problems that affect the large intestine. Some reasons for a contrast enema include:
How should I prepare my child for a contrast enema?
It is helpful to:
There are different preparation instructions for a contrast enema according to your child's age, diagnosis or reason for the study. You will be given specific instructions when you make your child's appointment. It is important that you follow all preparation instructions or the study may need to be rescheduled. In general:
What should I expect when I bring my child to the hospital for a contrast enema?
When you arrive, please go to the Radiology check-in desk.
What happens during the contrast enema study?
You and your child will be taken to the procedure room, where the fluoroscope is used to take x-rays. Your child will be awake at all times during the contrast enema study.
A contrast enema study takes about 15 to 30 minutes.
Will my child feel anything during the contrast enema?
What happens after the contrast enema study?
When the enema is done, your child will be ready to go home or see his or her doctor if an appointment is scheduled.
One of Boston Children's radiologists will review your child's images and create a written report of the findings and diagnosis.
How do I learn the results of the contrast enema study?
The radiologist will provide a report to the doctor who ordered your child's contrast enema. The doctor will then discuss the results with you.
Department of Radiology
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”