Preparing for a Contrast Enema Test in Children: Care Instructions

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A contrast enema test is an X-ray of your child's large intestine (colon and rectum). It can help find diseases and other problems that affect the large intestine, such as constipation, intussusception, and Hirschsprung disease.

Before the X-ray, your child will be given an enema that contains a contrast material, such as barium. It is put into your child's intestine through a tube that's placed in the rectum. Contrast helps your child's large intestine show up clearly on the X-ray picture.

A contrast enema can be uncomfortable. But usually the test doesn't take long.

After the test, your child may have cramping or white or grayish stools (if barium was used) for a few days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Before a contrast enema, tell the doctor if your child:
    • Is allergic to contrast material, such as barium.
    • Had an upper GI barium test or barium swallow recently.
    • Is allergic to latex. Latex products are often used to give the barium. If your child is allergic to latex, different products will be used.
  • For 1 to 3 days before the test, have your child drink water, fruit juices, or broth.
  • On the day before the test:
    • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase how much your child drinks.
    • Your child will take a laxative to empty the intestines.
    • Your child may be asked to do a water enema to clean the colon. This may need to be done again on the day of the test.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions. For some conditions, you may not need to do any special preparation. Your doctor will tell you how to help your child prepare for the test.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now if:

  • Your child isn't able to follow the directions to prepare for the test. These directions are to make sure that there's no stool in your child's colon. If you don't follow the instructions, the exam may need to be done at another time.
  • Your child has severe belly pain after the test.
  • Your child is not able to have a bowel movement after the test.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.