What is Enteroscopy?

Enteroscopy visually examines the small bowel and identifies such issues as bleeding, tumors, polyps, ulcers, and swollen lymph nodes. Common reasons this exam may be ordered are abnormal X-ray results and unexplained diarrhea.

Enteroscopies may be used alone or in combination with other procedures. For example, if your doctor suspects malignancy (cancer) in your small bowel, she may use an enteroscope to take a sample of tissue from your small bowel and have it examined in a laboratory. If you have a blockage in the small intestine that cannot be surgically removed, an enteroscopy-guided stent placement may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with the obstruction. Enteroscopes may also be used to treat intestinal bleeding and remove abnormal growths like tumors and polyps, as well as foreign objects that might have found their way into your small bowel.

There are several ways to perform an enteroscopy:

  • Push enteroscopy involves the use of a long tube with a camera, called an enteroscope. Depending on the location of the problem, the enteroscope is either passed through your mouth or rectum. This technique is often used to detect and stop bleeding in the upper small intestine.
  • Balloon enteroscopy uses scopes that have tiny balloons at the tip. The balloons inflate and deflate to help make the passage of the scope into your small bowel easier. This method is used when there is a need to access and treat certain parts of the small intestine that push enteroscopy cannot reach.
  • Capsule enteroscopy involves swallowing a capsule with a tiny camera inside it. As the capsule travels through your small intestine, the camera records and sends images that are then downloaded and analyzed by your doctor. The capsule eventually leaves your body during bowel movement. If your doctor needs to visualize the entire small intestine, capsule enteroscopy is the only option. The only drawback to this technique is that it cannot be combined with any treatment.
Enteroscopy is typically performed at the doctor's office and takes about 20 to 30 minutes, but may take longer if combined with another procedure. You may have a sore throat for a few hours if the scope was inserted through your mouth. Normal activities may be resumed about 24 hours following enteroscopy.