Small Bowel ( Balloon) Enteroscopy

What Is a Small Bowel (Balloon) Enteroscopy?

A small bowel enteroscopy (or ‘balloon enteroscopy’) is a medical procedure that allows the physician to navigate the entire small bowel from either from the mouth or rectum, thus enabling them to diagnose and provide treatment within the small bowel without having to resort to surgery.

During the procedure, a thin flexible camera is passed either through the mouth or colon and into the small bowel. It is attached to a special endoscope that, when inflated with air, can expand sections of the small intestine to allow the camera to get a better view. It is typically used to diagnose suspected small intestinal bleeding in people with recurrent, obscure gastrointestinal bleeding, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, small bowel tumors, and a hereditary condition called polyposis syndromes.

Two specialized balloons are used to advance the scope through the tortuous small bowel, which is on average 7 meters in length.  Balloon enteroscopy  is a specialized procedure requiring specific skills and is only performed in hospitals.

Why Undergo Balloon Enteroscopy?

An enteroscopy is performed 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 used to investigate for possible abnormalities within the small intestine, 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 inserted through the mouth (gastroscopy), the only preparation required is to avoid drinking or eating for 6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • If the procedure is done through the colon (colonoscopy), a full bowel preparation is needed. In the days leading to the procedure, you will be required to change your diet and drink a colonoscopy prep laxative to completely empty out your colon.

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

Notify your doctor at least 7 days prior to your procedure if you are taking:

  • Blood thinners (plavix, warfarin, pradaxa, eliquis, Xaralto)
  • Diabetes medications (metformin, gliflozins, insulin etc.)

On the day of your procedure, make sure to bring your referral, a full list of medications you’re taking and your Medicare card/Health Fund information.

What Should I Expect on the Day of My Balloon Enteroscopy?

  1. After registering at reception, you will be checked in by a nurse


  1. You will then be seen by your Gastroenterologist and Anaesthetist who will discuss your medical history and explain the procedure.


  1. You will be given a light anaesthetic, and while this is not a general anaesthetic, most patients are very comfortable and do not experience any pain


  1. Once sedated you lying comfortably on your left side, the endoscope is passed gently through the mouth and into the small intestine.


  1. The procedure usually takes between 45 minutes.

What Happens After The Balloon Enteroscopy?

Following the procedure, you will be carefully monitored in the recovery room 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. Even though you feel awake and alert after leaving the clinic, your judgment and reflexes will be impaired for the duration of the day. It is therefore strongly advised that you do not drive, operate machinery or sign legal documents on the same day after the test.

Are There Any Complications or Side-Effects Following an Enteroscopy?

A balloon enteroscopy is a very safe procedure and very low risk. Some common side effects include mild throat soreness, and abdominal discomfort related to retained air in the small intestines. While less common, more serious complications could include bleeding and perforation (a tear of the lining of the intestine). If this occurs, you may be admitted to hospital for surgery.

Contact GastroX or your nearest emergency department if you experience any of the following following your balloon enteroscopy:

  • Fevers
  • Increased abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Passing blood or black, tarry stools
  • Other symptoms that may cause you concern