Tests and treatments
What is it?What is it?
A spiral enteroscopy is an examination of the small intestine. This can be the entire small intestine or a (significant) portion of it. To find out the cause of your symptoms, the doctor will use an endoscope. A very small camera is attached to this instrument that allows the doctor to view the inside of your intestines on a screen.
For this examination, the endoscope is sheathed by a spiral that is powered by a built-in motor. This allows the endoscope to advance through the small intestine in a controlled fashion.
The doctor controls the endoscope with a foot pedal and inspects the inside of the small intestine based on the camera images. This facilitates the detection of inflammation, polyps, bleeding or tumours. The doctor may also take material (biopsies) for further examination. Any bleeding can be treated immediately. These procedures are pain free. After the procedure, the tissue sample is sent for further examination.
Things to considerThings to consider
Do not hesitate to ask for additional explanation should you have any doubts or queries.
It is important that you notify us before the procedure if you:
- are pregnant
- suffer from a condition that can interfere with blood clotting. The most common conditions that impair blood clotting are kidney disease, liver disease, haemophilia and other congenital clotting-factor deficiencies;
- take blood thinners (Marevan, Sintrom, Marcoumar, Ticlid, Plavix, Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis, Aspirin...);
- have an artificial valve or prosthesis;
- have epilepsy, diabetes, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease;
- you are allergic to contrast medium, latex or antibiotics.
During the spiral enteroscopy, the endoscope can be inserted through the oesophagus (anterograde) or through the anus (retrograde). The doctor will tell you beforehand which pathway has been chosen for you. Your preparation for the examination will differ, depending on the procedure chosen:
Examination through the oesophagus
You have to fast for up to eight hours prior to the examination.
That means you may not eat, drink or smoke.
Examination through the anus
The preparation for a retrograde enteroscopy is similar to the preparation for a colonoscopy. It is very important for the small intestine to be completely clean. This allows the doctor to see the intestinal wall clearly so that any lesions present can be reliably detected during the examination. If your bowels are not clean, the examination may be more labourious and carry unnecessary risks.
The doctor will give you instructions detailing how to prepare your bowels with Eziclen®.
Course of the procedureCourse of the procedure
A spiral enteroscopy is performed under general anaesthesia. So, you will not feel anything from the examination. During the examination, you will be ventilated by a device through a tube placed in the trachea (intubation).
The doctor will gently slide the endoscope in through either your oesophagus or anus. The doctor will then view your intestines on a screen. If necessary, a tissue sample will be taken from the intestine (biopsy) for microscopic examination. Any polyps will be removed with a special loop. You will not feel anything from this either.
After the examination, you will be taken to the recovery room. Next, the nurse will take you to your room to rest.
A spiral enteroscopy procedure takes between one-and-a-half to two hours.
After the procedureAfter the procedure
Some time after the examination, you will receive beverages and a light meal. We have you overnight in the hospital so that we can observe you and detect any complications at an early stage. You might also have blood drawn the day after the examination.
On the day of the examination itself, your doctor will discuss the preliminary results with you. A follow-up consultation will be scheduled, if necessary. It will take several days for the tissue sample to be examined. The doctor will contact you about this sample, if appropriate. Your GP will also receive a report about this.
Safety and risksSafety and risks
Spiral enteroscopies are, in principle, safe procedures. Potential complications include bleeding, infection, intestinal perforation or pancreatitis.
- After anterograde enteroscopy, in which the spiral passes through the throat and oesophagus, patients often experience some throat pain or have difficulty swallowing. These symptoms usually resolve after one to two days.
- Bleeding or a tear (perforation) in the small intestine only occurs in rare cases. Perforations mainly occur when there is a constriction in the small intestine or when polyps have been removed. All these complications are generally quite responsive to treatment, but they may cause you to stay in hospital longer.
- Pancreatitis or infections are rare.
Centres and specialist areasCentres and specialist areas
Latest publication date: 17/05/2023
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik