Small bowel enteroscopy

What is a small bowel enteroscopy?

A small bowel enteroscopy (or ‘balloon enteroscopy’) is a medical procedure performed to inspect the small bowel. During the procedure a thin flexible camera is passed either through the mouth (or occasionally through the colon) and into the small bowel. Two specialized balloons are used to advance the scope through the tortuous small bowel. The small bowel is on average 7 meters in length. Balloon enteroscopy is a specialized procedure requiring particular skills and is only performed in hospital.

Why is a balloon enteroscopy performed?

An enteroscopy is usually done to investigate and treat suspected bleeding from the small bowel. Bleeding that occurs very slowly can result in iron deficiency and anaemia. It is also performed to look for possible abnormalities within the small bowel including areas of ulceration and abnormal growths.

How do I prepare for a balloon enteroscopy?

Your doctor will advise you on the required preparation:

  • If done through the mouth (like a gastroscopy) the only preparation required is to have no food or drink for 6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • If the procedure is done through the colon (like a colonoscopy) a full bowel preparation is required.

Whilst most medications can be taken as usual with a sip of water on the day of your procedure, some medications need to be stopped, or have their dose altered. 

You should notify your doctor at least 7 days prior to your procedure if you are taking:

  • Blood thinners (plavix, warfarin, pradaxa, eliquis etc), or
  • Diabetes medications (metformin, insulin, ‘gliflozins’ etc)

Please bring your referral, a full list of your medications and your Medicare card/Health Fund information on the day of your procedure.

What to expect on the day?

After registering at reception, you will be seen by your Gastroenterologist and Anaesthetist, who will discuss your medical history and the procedure. You will then be given an anaesthetic (sedative). Most patients are very comfortable during the enteroscopy and don’t experience any pain. Once sedated and lying in a comfortable position on your left side, the enteroscope is passed into the small intestine. The procedure usually lasts for between 45 and 60 minutes.

What happens after my balloon enteroscopy?

Following the procedure you will be monitored in the recovery area until most of the sedative medication has worn off. You will then be offered something to eat and drink. Because of the sedative medication, it is essential that you have a friend or relative take you home and stay with you for several hours. It is strongly recommended that you do not drive, operate machinery or sign legal documents on the same day after the test.

Are there any risk or side-effects?

Overall balloon enteroscopy is a very safe procedure that most patients tolerate it very well. The most common side effects include mild throat soreness, and abdominal discomfort related to retained air in the small intestines. More serious but rare complications can occur which include bleeding, or a tear in the lining of the intestine (perforation). If this happens you may be admitted to hospital for an operation to repair it.

Please contact Gastro IQ or your nearest emergency department if you experience any of the following symptoms after your balloon enteroscopy:

  • Increasing abdominal pain
  • Fevers
  • Passing blood or black, tarry bowel actions.
  • Other symptoms that cause you concern.

Your doctor will discuss the procedure with you on the day of your enteroscopy, however if you have any questions or concerns prior to, or after, the procedure, please don’t hesitate to contact us.