What is a Medical Enema?

A reusable enema kit.

A medical enema is a procedure during which a tube is used to insert a drug or contrast solution into a patient’s rectum. Enemas can be used to cleanse a patient’s intestines or to relieve ulcerative colitis. The doctor may administer a barium enema to a patient prior to an X-ray imaging examination of the patient’s colon and rectum.

People with constipation can use an enema for medicine, containing sodium phosphate and sodium biphosphate. This type of enema usually relieves constipation and helps the body expel digestive waste that is in the colon. In some cases, individuals with impacted bowels use an enema to relieve pressure in the colon and eliminate fecal waste. A doctor may ask the patient to use a sodium phosphate and sodium biphosphate enema to cleanse the colon before colon surgery before a colonoscopy exam or before a colon x-ray.

Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.

Sodium phosphate and sodium biphosphate enemas should generally not be given if this type of enema has been used within the last seven days. In most cases, people with kidney disease or dehydration should not use an enema that contains sodium phosphate and sodium biphosphate. Doctors typically do not recommend a medical enema for individuals with an imbalance of electrolytes such as sodium, phosphorus, or potassium. This type of enema can cause side effects such as rectal bleeding, sores around the rectum, or stomach pain.

A medical enema involves inserting a drug or contrast solution into the rectum.

Some patients with ulcerative colitis may be prescribed a hydrocortisone rectal enema. This type of medical enema usually reduces inflammation in the patient’s colon and rectum. Indigestion, rectal pain, and increased appetite have been reported by some users of hydrocortisone enemas.

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A barium enema is a tube that contains a special contrast solution. Health care professionals often administer this type of medical enema before an X-ray scan of the colon and rectum. The contrast solution enters the intestine, highlights areas within the colon on an x-ray image, and helps doctors identify intestinal abnormalities and disorders. The doctor may use the results of a colon x-ray to diagnose colon cancer or bowel conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. In most cases, the contrast solution is expelled with the patient’s normal bowel movements after the completion of an x-ray imaging test.

Patients usually empty their intestines of all fecal waste before receiving a barium enema. An individual may use a laxative or a medical enema with sodium phosphate and sodium biphosphate to cleanse the intestines before receiving a barium enema. X-ray images of the intestines are usually clearer after removal of fecal waste. A barium enema can cause a feeling of fullness in the gut, as well as abdominal cramping. Some barium enemas introduce air into the intestine with a contrasting solution to improve the quality of the radiographic image.

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