Contrast enema

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What is a contrast enema?

A contrast enema examination is a series or X-rays taken to show your child’s large bowel, colon and rectum, by filling the bowel with contrast.

What is contrast?

Contrast is a substance (eg barium or air) used to help x-rays show a clear image of body structures.

Barium is a white liquid with a milk shake texture containing a radiopaque substance (barium sulphate) which makes the upper digestive tract visible.

A contrast enema is a test carried out in the Medical Imaging Department at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.  In this examination, barium is mixed with water and then inserted into the rectum through the anus. A series or X-rays are then taken of your child’s large bowel.

The contrast helps make the x-ray pictures more clear when the contrast is used.

What happens in a contrast enema examination?

The test is done in a room with an X-ray table and a large camera above it.  The camera is linked to a television screen where an X-ray image of the bowel can be viewed.

The doctor or nurse will lie your child on their side while inserting a thin lubricated plastic tube called a catheter into the rectum. The tube is passed through the anus and will be kept in place with medical tape.  Your child will feel some discomfort when the catheter is inserted.

After the catheter is inserted, contrast will then be injected into the bowel through the catheter and your child will feel full in their abdomen.  The contrast will flow through the large bowel and temporarily coat the inside lining of the colon and rectum.  As the bowel fills with contrast, loops of bowel will be seen on the television screen, which helps to show the normal bowel contour, patency and position.  A series of X-ray’s will be taken in different directions.

The pictures are quickly checked and the test is then complete.

Your child can then go to the toilet.

Medical imaging booking and preparation

Staff will inform you of any preparation at time of booking.

Screening/Fluoroscopy enquiries: (02) 9845 2928


The Children's Hospital at Westmead

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