Small-Bowel Endoscopy

Minimally invasive procedure for diagnosing IBD.

Your small intestine, also known as the small bowel, connects the stomach to the large intestine (colon). The small bowel is often the site of painful conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease (an immune disease in which eating foods with gluten leads to damage in the small intestine).

At Henry Ford, we use several diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of your discomfort, where in your digestive tract the issue is located and how severe the issue is. One of these procedures is small-bowel endoscopy, also known as deep endoscopy. Some other digestive centers don’t offer small-bowel endoscopy because of the time and coordination involved in the procedure, but it’s a valuable tool that helps us accurately diagnose our patients.

Our team includes specialists in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with the expertise you need for a precise diagnosis and comprehensive treatment. No matter what’s causing your symptoms, we’re here to help.

What is a small-bowel endoscopy?

A small-bowel endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which we examine your entire small intestine, which is about 20 feet long. We use special balloons that fit over a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which has a light and a video camera. By inflating and deflating the balloons, we move the small bowel over the endoscope so we can examine it.

The endoscope lets us see nearly any part of the small bowel so we can diagnose the cause of your symptoms. We also can treat your condition if needed with the help of tiny tools we pass through the endoscope and into your small bowel.

What’s the difference between a small-bowel endoscopy and a colonoscopy?

While small-bowel endoscopy and colonoscopy are both types of endoscopy, the procedures are very different. Because Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, we use small-bowel endoscopy for its greater ability to view any part of the digestive tract. Colonoscopy, by contrast, lets us view changes and areas of concern in the large intestine (colon) only.

Because of a colonoscopy’s more limited viewing area, a small-bowel endoscopy is the better choice for locating and diagnosing Crohn’s disease.

What to expect during your small-bowel endoscopy

Before your procedure, we’ll give you instructions on how to prepare for your small-bowel endoscopy. You may need to fast (not eat or drink) before your endoscopy so your stomach is empty for the procedure.

If you take certain blood-thinning medications, you may need to stop taking them in the days before your endoscopy, as these medications can increase your risk of bleeding during the procedure. Your doctor will give you instructions about any medications you may take for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.

On the day of your procedure, one of our expert anesthesiologists will sedate you. While you’re sedated, your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth and stomach and into the small intestine. You will not feel any pain during your endoscopy.

The procedure will last an hour or two. Afterward, you’ll rest until your sedation wears off. You won’t be able to drive, so please plan on having someone available to take you home.

Take the Next Step

Contact us to schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.

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Please call 911 if you have an emergency or urgent medical question.

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