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For Parents: The Contrast Enema Test

About the contrast enema test at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Doctors order a contrast enema test when a child is has constipation for a very long time. The contrast enema test is done in the fluoroscopy room, in the radiology department at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

How does the contrast enema test work?

A contrast fluid is given through a tube that is put into the bottom (anus), the opening where poop comes out of the large intestine. When the tube has been placed, pictures of the large intestine (colon) are taken.

Preparing for the contrast enema test at Children’s Colorado

Please arrive at Children’s Colorado 30 minutes before your child’s scheduled exam. This will give you time to check into admissions and get your child’s patient I.D. bracelet. Staff will be checking this bracelet throughout the day, to make sure the right procedure is being done.

Once you have checked into admissions, you will go to the radiology check-in desk. We will ask you to fill out paperwork so please bring a list of your child’s medicines and their insurance card.

How to help your child before the test at Children’s Colorado

A boy holding a teddy bear

A contrast enema can be hard for children because the tube is put into the bottom, which a very sensitive area of the body. Because of this, your child may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

There are many things you can do to help your child know what to expect and be more comfortable.

  • Let your child know that you will be there during the entire test.
  • Let your child know the test is only done in a hospital setting by hospital staff, including a doctor and imaging technologists.
  • Bring a comfort item from home such as a blanket, favorite stuffed animal, action figure, etc.
  • Siblings are not allowed in the exam room. Please arrange for someone to watch brothers and sisters.
  • Talk with your child about the test at home so they know what to expect. Link to Children’s Colorado’s tips on preparing your child for the contrast enema test

A Children’s Colorado child life specialist will meet with you and your child (3 years and older) before the exam. While you are in the radiology waiting area, we will talk about the test and answer any questions or concerns you may have. The child life specialist will also be there to support your child during the test.

On the day of the test, please dress your child in comfortable clothes that are easy to remove. Your child will be asked to change into a hospital gown when entering the fluoroscopy exam room for the test. All clothes, including underwear, shoes and socks need to be removed.

You will be able to stay with your child during the test. We will ask that you wear a lead apron when the pictures are being taken. If you can be calm and reassuring, it will help your child to be relaxed and cooperative.

**Note: if the mother is pregnant she will not be able to stay in the room--we do not want to expose the baby to radiation. Please bring another person to help support your child.

What to expect during the contrast enema test at Children’s Colorado

During the test, your child will need to roll from side to side allowing the contrast to reach all areas of the large intestine so we can see more clearly. At the end of the test, your child may feel some pressure which can be uncomfortable or painful.

When we have enough pictures, the contrast bag will be dropped and the fluid will start to come out, which will help relieve the pressure. The tube will then be taken out. Your child will then go to the restroom and the contrast will help your child by breaking up the poop. After your child has pooped, another X-ray picture will be taken. Then your child is all done and can put their own clothes back on.

Going home after the test

After the test, your child may need to use the bathroom more often, but otherwise should feel fine. The results of this test will be sent to your ordering physician, typically within a couple of days.

Your child’s doctor will contact you with follow-up information and to talk about treatment options.

Read kid-friendly information with your child to help prepare for a contrast enema.