Small Bowel Biopsy

Also known as: small intestine biopsy, intestinal biopsy, enteroscopy, small bowel biopsy.

What is small bowel biopsy?

A small bowel biopsy is a medical procedure that is used to obtain and examine a tiny sample of small intestinal wall that can help in the diagnosis of a number of different digestive diseases that including chronic diarrhea, difficulty absorbing nutrients, or inflammatory diseases of the bowel.

What happens during the procedure?

A small bowel biopsy is performed with the patient awake (though a mild sedative may be given if needed), usually in an outpatient surgical suite. It involves numbing the back of the throat with a local anesthetic, and then inserting a long thin tube with a capsule on the end down the throat into the food pipe (esophagus). The tube is then advanced down the esophagus and stomach, and X-ray imaging is used to guide the tube into the small intestine. Finally, the capsule is closed onto a sample of tissue using suction, a small sample is taken and then the tube and capsule are removed. The biopsy material is sent to a laboratory for examination by a variety of techniques.

Is any special preparation needed?

The patient may need to avoid food, drink and certain medications prior to the procedure.

What are the risk factors?

Uncommonly, infection, bleeding, and puncture of the intestine can occur. The procedure is considered safe as the benefits of diagnosis and/or assessing treatment far outweigh the risks.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 26, 2019 12:25 PM