Contrast Enema

This information will help you prepare for your contrast enema at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

A contrast enema is an x-ray exam of your colon (large intestine). It’s done with contrast such as barium or an iodine solution called iohexol (Omnipaque®), air, or a combination of these. The contrast makes your colon easier to see on an x-ray.

Most people will need to clean out their colon (do a bowel preparation) before their contrast enema. Speak with your healthcare provider before your scheduled procedure to confirm what kind of preparation you’ll need to do. 

Before Your Procedure

If you’re an inpatient in the hospital before your contrast enema, your floor nurse will give you the supplies needed for your bowel preparation. If you’ll be coming to the hospital for your contrast enema, speak with your doctor about your preparation. Most people will need to purchase the following supplies a few days ahead of time:

  • Polyethelene glycol (MiraLAX®). You will need 1 (238-gram) bottle.
  • Gatorade® (a light color, not red or purple). You will need 2 (32-ounce) bottles.
  • Bisacodyl (Dulcolax®) 5 mg tablets. You will need 4 tablets.
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The Day Before Your Procedure

Follow a clear liquid diet

Follow a clear liquid diet the day before your procedure. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids other than water, coffee, and tea. You will need the calories from these liquids so that you don’t feel faint.



Do Not Drink


  • Clear broth or bouillon
  • Clear consommé
  • Clear packaged vegetable, chicken, or beef broth-mix
  • Any products with particles of dried food or seasoning


  • Gelatin (such as Jell-O®)
  • Flavored ices
  • Anything red or purple


  • Clear fruit juices, such as white cranberry, white grape, apple
  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, Gatorade®
  • Black coffee (no cream)
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Juice with pulp
  • Nectars
  • Milk
  • Alcoholic beverages

Instructions for your bowel preparation

At 3:00 pm, take 2 bisacodyl (Dulcolax) tablets.

At 5:00 pm:

  • Divide the MiraLAX in half. Pour half of the MiraLAX into each 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade.
  • Shake until it’s fully dissolved.
  • Drink an 8-ounce glass every 30 minutes until both bottles are empty.

At 7:00 pm, take the last 2 bisacodyl (Dulcolax) tablets.

Instructions for eating and drinking before your procedure

12 ounces of water

  • Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes hard candy and gum.
  • Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of water (see figure).
  • Starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, do not eat or drink anything. This includes water.
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The Day of Your Procedure

Things to remember

  • Take only the medications your doctor told you to take the morning of your procedure. Take them with a few sips of water.

What to bring

  • A list of the medications you take at home.
  • Medications for breathing problems (such as an inhaler), if you take any.
  • Medications for chest pain, if you take any.
  • If you have an ostomy, bring an extra bag and supplies with you.

Where to park

MSK’s parking garage is located on East 66th Street between York and First Avenues. If you have questions about prices, call 212-639-2338.

To reach the garage, turn onto East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block in from York Avenue, on the right-hand (north) side of the street. There’s a pedestrian tunnel you can walk through that connects the garage to the hospital.

There are also other garages located on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues, East 67th Street between York and First Avenues, and East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Where to go

You should arrive at the main building of MSK. Enter through the entrance at 425 East 67th Street, and take the A elevator to the 2nd floor.

What to expect

Once you’re at the hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members will ask you to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. People with the same or similar name may be having procedures on the same day.

After you change into a hospital gown, your radiologic technologist and radiologist will review the procedure with you and answer your questions. You will be helped onto an x-ray table and will lie flat on your back.

You will have an x-ray of your abdomen to make sure there isn’t any stool (feces) in your colon. Your radiologist will put a small tube into your rectum to allow the contrast to flow gently into your colon. You may feel some cramping while this is happening. Your radiologist will watch the contrast move through your colon on a monitor screen while x-rays are taken at different times.

The head of the table may be tilted higher or lower and you may be helped into different positions during your procedure. This is so the contrast will coat your entire colon.

Your radiologic technologist will remove the tube from your rectum and you will be taken to the bathroom to expel the contrast and air. Afterward, one or more x-rays will be taken. Once your radiologist has reviewed all of the x-rays, you can leave.


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After Your Procedure

You can go back to your usual diet and activities, unless your doctor or nurse gives you other instructions.

If you had a barium enema, your stool will be white for the next few days as your body gets rid of the barium. Barium can cause constipation, so it’s important to drink extra liquids to help move it out of your colon. Some people need a laxative, such as milk of magnesia, or an enema to remove all of the barium. If your stool hasn’t returned to its normal color a few days after your barium enema, ask your doctor if you should take a laxative.

Your results will be available from your doctor in 2 business days.

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Contact Information

If you have any questions about your contrast enema, talk with your doctor, nurse, or another member of your healthcare team at the Department of Radiology. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at 212-639-7298.

After 8:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call 212-639-2000 and ask for the doctor on call for your doctor.

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