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Digestive health

Tests for digestive disorders

When it comes to digestive disorders, medical tests are sometimes necessary — and intimidating when you’re not sure what to expect. While you will be given more information and instructions before your test, here are simple explanations of common tests for digestive disorders.

Colonoscopy

  • Purpose: A colonoscopy is used to get a view of the lining of your large intestine (colon) to check for abnormal growths (like polyps), inflamed tissue, ulcers or bleeding. It may even be used to treat some problems.
  • How it’s done: A colonoscope (a long, thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the anus and guided to the colon and, at times, the small intestine. You may feel bloated or have gas because air is used to swell the intestine so the scope can progress. The colonoscope projects an image onto a television screen. And, if needed, is used to guide other equipment to remove polyps, get a sample, or help stop bleeding.
  • What else you should know: Before the procedure, you may be given medication to help you relax.
  • How to prepare for it: You’ll receive specific instructions but, generally, you’ll be asked to stop eating solid food 24-48 hours before, and take a laxative to empty your bowel.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)

  • Purpose: An endoscope, fitted with an ultrasound probe, uses sound waves to show the details the wall of your gut for evaluation. During the test, a sample may be taken, or treatment provided (for example, a cyst may be drained).
  • How it’s done: An EUS is done in a hospital. Depending on the purpose and what is being examined, it can be done rectally or through the mouth.
  • What else you should know: If you’re going for a rectal EUS, sedation isn’t usually necessary. However, you will be sedated if the scope is inserted through your mouth.
  • How to prepare for it: You’ll receive specific instructions but, generally, a rectal EUS requires a laxative in order to empty your bowel.

Capsule endoscopy

  • Purpose: Essentially, capsule endoscopy provides images — about 2-4 images per second — of your digestive system. These images are then reviewed to determine the source of any problems, possible treatment, or if other tests are needed. Capsule endoscopy is used when other tests cannot identify a source or cannot be used to help diagnose some diseases. It should not replace a colonoscopy, and is not meant to evaluate chronic constipation or abdominal pain.
  • How it’s done: At your doctor’s office, you swallow a small disposable capsule that contains a miniature video camera and transmitter that sends images to a wearable recording device. You then go about your day, and return to your doctor’s office to drop off the recording device. Once the capsule is eliminated with a bowel movement, you let your doctor know.
  • What else you should know: It’s safe, painless and minimally invasive.

Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

  • Purpose: To identify hidden traces of blood in stool that may not be visible to the naked eye.
  • How it’s done: From three consecutive bowel movements, you collect and place a small amount of stool on a special card that is then analyzed. If the test comes back positive, then a colonoscopy may be scheduled.

Want more information and support? Search “digestion” in Find Support for organizations in your area.

Tests for digestive disorders
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