Double-Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE)

To detect abnormal growths, such as polyps, clinicians at the Massachusetts General Hospital Digestive Healthcare Center use a double-contrast barium enema (DCBE), which involves injecting fluid called barium, followed by air, into the rectum.
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Contact the Colorectal Center access coordinator: 617-643-5166

About This Procedure

A double-contrast barium enema involves injecting fluid called barium, followed by air, into your rectum. This makes the entire colon visible on an X-ray and allows doctors to see abnormal growths, such as polyps. If your doctor sees something suspicious during this test, he or she may order a follow-up colorectal cancer screening test such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

Before the Test

You prepare for a double-contrast barium enema the same way you would prepare for a colonoscopy, taking medication the day before your test to ensure that your colon and rectum are empty for the procedure.

During the Test

The test takes about 30 to 45 minutes. During the test, you will lie on a table, and your doctor will insert a small tube into your rectum to partially fill your colon with barium sulfate. Barium sulfate is a white, chalky liquid that helps your doctor see the outline of your colon on an X-ray.

After the barium is placed into your colon, your doctor will add air to help detect abnormal growths.

Your doctor will take X-rays from several different angles to see your whole colon. Your doctor may ask you to move around on the table and turn over to help spread the barium sulfate through your colon and provide additional views.

You will not be sedated for the test. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor about other tests that may work better for you.

Learn about the Colorectal Center

Contact the Colorectal Center access coordinator: 617-643-5166

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