Enteroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and treat digestives issues in the small intestine (small bowel). Since the small intestine is over 20 feet long and only one inch wide, it can be difficult to examine. Gastroenterologists use a thin, flexible tube with a camera called an endoscope for the procedure.
There are two types of enteroscopy, upper and lower. During an upper enteroscopy, the tube is inserted in the mouth and during a lower enteroscopy, the tube is inserted in the rectum. The type your doctor recommends will depend on the diagnosis.
The procedure uses a specially equipped endoscope that can include either a single or double balloon or a spiral attachment. With the balloon-assisted procedures, one or two tiny balloons are attached to the endoscope and can be inflated which allows the gastroenterologist to exam deeper into the small intestine compared to a standard endoscope. Spiral enteroscopy uses a special tube with a rotating spiral over the endoscope. This technique is similar to the balloon procedures but uses the spiral to move the endoscope through the small bowel.
The small intestine can also be visualized using pill-shaped capsule, called a Capsule Endoscopy, that has a camera inside. The camera records pictures as it passes through the digestive tract, which the physician can later view.
Gastroenterologists recommend the procedure if you have been diagnosed with:
- Certain forms of gastrointestinal bleeding
- Unexplained iron deficiency anemia
- Unexplained diarrhea
- Polyps or tumors in the small intestine
- A bowel obstruction
- Unexplained malnutrition
- Abnormal X-ray or CT scan results
The procedure can also be used to get tissue samples from the small bowel for biopsy, remove a polyp or tumor, stop bleeding on the lining of the small intestine, and stretch open a tight space in the bowel.
An enteroscopy is an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day. It can
take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to perform.
Depending on the type of procedure you’re having, you will either be fully sedated or given something to help you relax. For an upper enteroscopy, your throat will be numbed as well.
Depending on the type of procedure you’re having, there will be some necessary preparation. For an upper enteroscopy, you will not be able to eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the procedure. For a lower enteroscopy, most likely you will have to do a bowel cleanse. For either procedure, you may need to stop taking certain medications like aspirin or blood thinners. Your provider will give you detailed instructions prior to the procedure.
Serious complications are quite rare after an enteroscopy. There may be some mild side effects though, like a sore throat, abdominal bloating, minor bleeding, mild cramping, or nausea.
You may feel a little drowsy for the remainder of the day. You should rest and not make any important decisions or drive a car the rest of the day. Some people me feel slight abdominal bloating but that should pass in a few hours.