Written by Shannon Johnson | Published on June 4, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is an Enteroscopy?

An enteroscopy helps doctors find and treat problems in the digestive system. A thin, flexible tube with a camera inside is used to see inside your body. This tube is called an endoscope.

In enteroscopy, one or two balloons are attached to that tube. These can be inflated to help with diagnosis or treatment. The procedure is also known as a:

  • double balloon enteroscopy
  • double bubble
  • capsule enteroscopy
  • push-and-pull enteroscopy

Why Would a Doctor Recommend an Enteroscopy?

Enteroscopy is used to detect problems with your small intestine or stomach. Doctors may recommend enteroscopy if you have any of the following:

  • high immune cell count
  • small bowel tumors
  • blocked bowel passages
  • intestinal damage from radiation
  • abnormal bleeding
  • chronic low iron
  • unexplained severe diarrhea
  • unexplained malnutrition

How to Prepare for an Enteroscopy

Your doctor will give you instructions for how to prepare for the procedure. Make sure to follow them. You may need to:

  • stop taking aspirin or other medicines that may thin your blood
  • avoid solid foods and milk after 10 p.m. on the day before the procedure
  • only drink clear liquids the day of the procedure
  • avoid all liquids four hours before the procedure

How Is an Enteroscopy Test Conducted?

An enteroscopy is an outpatient procedure. It takes between 45 minutes and four hours to complete.

Depending on the type of enteroscopy, your doctor will either fully sedate you or give you medicine to relax.

During the procedure, your doctors will record video or take pictures. These can be reviewed in more detail after the procedure is done. Doctors may also take tissue samples or fix existing problems.

There are two types of enteroscopy: top and bottom. Your doctor will let you know in advance which type you will need. An oral or upper enteroscopy allows doctors to view and treat the upper part of the digestive system. A rectal or lower enteroscopy allows doctors to view and treat the lower part.

Oral or Upper Enteroscopy

After numbing the throat, doctors will insert a thin, flexible tube with a balloon on the end into your mouth. It will pass through the esophagus and into the stomach. You will have to remain alert. The doctor may need you to swallow or move to help get the tube in place.

Rectal or Lower Enteroscopy

In this procedure, the tube is inserted into the rectum. Once the tube reaches the area the doctor wants to view or treat, the balloon is inflated. This provides the doctor with a clear workspace.

This procedure is also called a colonoscopy.

What Do Abnormal Results Mean?

Abnormal results from your enteroscopy can mean a variety of things. Some reasons for an abnormal enteroscopy include:

  • Crohn’s disease: an inflammatory bowel disease
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • stomach or intestinal virus
  • cancer of the lymph nodes
  • Whipple disease: when the small intestines will not absorb nutrients

Your doctor will explain the meaning of your results.

Risks of an Enteroscopy

After the procedure, you might experience some mild side effects. These include:

  • sore throat
  • abdominal bloating
  • nausea
  • minor bleeding
  • mild cramping

Unfortunately, there are also major risks associated with enteroscopy. These include internal bleeding or perforation of your bowel. Make sure to seek immediate medical help if you have:

  • more than a few tablespoons of blood in your stool
  • severe stomach pain
  • a firm, swollen stomach
  • vomiting
  • fever

In addition, certain groups should avoid this procedure. There may be an increased risk of major health problems in:

  • pregnant women
  • overweight people
  • people with heart or lung disease
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