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Enteroclysis

Definition

Enteroclysis is an x-ray examination of the small intestine that looks at how a liquid called contrast material moves through the small intestine.

Alternative Names

Small bowel enema; CT enteroclysis; Small bowel follow-through; Barium enteroclysis

How the Test is Performed

This test is done in a hospital radiology department.

  • The health care provider will insert a tube through your nose or mouth into your stomach and into the beginning of the small bowel.
  • Contrast material and air will flow through the tube, and x-rays are taken.

The x-ray images appear in real time on a monitor that is similar to a television screen. This means they are seen as the contrast is actually moving through the bowel.

Sometimes a CT scan is also used.

The goal of the study is to view all of the loops of small bowel. You may be asked to change positions during the exam. The test usually lasts several hours, because it may take a while for the contrast to move through the whole small bowel.

How to Prepare for the Test

You should drink clear liquids for at least 24 hours before the test. Laxatives may be prescribed to make sure the bowel is clear of any particles that might interfere with the study.

You may need to stop taking medications, including narcotic pain relievers, on or before the day of the exam. Do not change or stop taking any medications without first talking to your health care provider.

If you are anxious about the procedure you may be given a sedative before it starts. You will be asked to remove all jewelry and wear a hospital gown. It is best to leave jewelry and other valuables at home. You will be asked to remove any removable dental work, such as appliances, bridges, or retainers.

How the Test will Feel

The placement of the tube may be uncomfortable. The contrast material may cause a feeling of abdominal fullness.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is performed to examine the small bowel. It is the most complete way of telling if the small intestine is normal.

Normal Results

There are no problems seen with the size or shape of the small intestine. Contrast travels through the bowel at a normal rate without any sign of blockage.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Many problems of the small intestine can be found with enteroclysis. Some of these include:

Risks

The radiation exposure may be greater with this test than with other types of x-rays because of the length of time. But most experts feel that the risk is low compared to the benefits.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-ray radiation. If there is a chance that you are pregnant, you must tell your health care provider.

Rare complications include:

  • Allergic reactions to medications prescribed for the examination (ask your health care provider about any known drug sensitivities)
  • Possible injury to bowel structures during the study

Barium may cause constipation. Tell your health care provider if the barium has not passed through your system by 2 or 3 days after the test, or if you feel constipated.

References

Gourtsoyiannis N, Prassopoulos P, Daskalogiannaki M, et al. The duodenum and small intestine. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 28.

Maglinte DDT. Fluoroscopic and CT enteroclysis: evidence-based clinical update. Radiol Clin N Am. 2013;51:149-176.


Review Date: 7/30/2014
Reviewed By: John A. Daller, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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