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Testing for inflammatory bowel disease

Blood tests

Blood testing may be necessary for a diagnosis of IBD. You can expect to have a nurse or a phlebotomist use a needle to collect blood from a vein. The blood that is collected will be examined for:

  • Anemia (low red blood cells) due to blood loss
  • White blood cells - increased white blood cells indicates inflammation
  • Antibodies - certain antibodies can help to differentiate between Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis
  • Nutritional deficiencies - some nutritional deficiencies might be present due to the disease process.

Stool examination

A stool examination may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of IBD. You can expect to be given a container to take home to use to collect a stool sample, which will be sent to a laboratory by your physician's office. In two or three days, the results will be in. The stool will be tested for:

  • Bacteria - possible source for abdominal discomfort; to rule out IBD 
  • Parasites - possible source for abdominal discomfort; to rule out IBD 
  • Blood - To determine if there is blood loss

EGD

An EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) may be needed to diagnose you properly. 

  • You can expect to have an EGD scheduled as a follow up visit.
  • You will be instructed to not eat for 8 hours prior to your EGD.
  • When you arrive for your EGD you will have an IV inserted to deliver fluids.
  • You will be sedated for your comfort and safety while the procedure is underway, so remember to have someone drive you to and from the procedure.
  • A thin, flexible, lighted tube, called an endoscope, is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach), stomach, and duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine). The endoscope allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, and to insert instruments or tools through a scope to remove a sample of tissue for biopsy if necessary. 

Colonoscopy  

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy may be required to diagnose you properly.

  • You can expect to have a colonoscopy scheduled as a follow up visit.
  • You will be instructed to not eat or drink for 8 hours prior to your colonoscopy.
  • When you arrive for your colonoscopy you will have an IV inserted to deliver fluids.
  • You will be sedated for your comfort and safety while the procedure is underway, so remember to have someone drive you to and from the procedure.
  • A thin, lighted tube is guided through rectum and into the colon. This procedure allows the physician to view the entire length of the large intestine, and can often help identify abnormal growths, inflamed tissue, ulcers, and bleeding.

Capsule endoscopy

Pill CamAnother option for visualizing the digestive tract is by using capsule endoscopy. Capsule endoscopy is a pill-sized video capsule with a lens and its own light source. By using capsule endoscopy, UK doctors can examine the lining of the small intestine. A capsule endoscopy does not replace a colonoscopy or an EGD; it is used as an additional assessment. 


Upper GI series

An upper GI series (sometimes called a barium swallow) might be needed to come to an accurate diagnosis of IBD.

  • An upper GI series will be scheduled as a follow up visit and you will be asked not to eat or drink for at least 8 hours. 
  • When you arrive for the procedure you will be asked to drink a liquid called barium.
  • After drinking the barium a series of X-rays will follow the barium through the digestive tract.  The reason barium is swallowed is because it shows up on X-rays and coats the inside of your digestive tract, allowing the physician to find problem areas such as ulcers.
  • Since the barium liquid is not absorbed by the body it will pass in your stools, so your stools might be lighter in color until all of the barium passes.
  • Barium may cause constipation after the procedure if it is not completely eliminated from your body. You may be advised to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in fiber to expel the barium from the body.

Lower GI series

A Lower GI series (sometimes called a barium enema) might be needed to properly diagnose IBD.

  • A lower GI series will be scheduled as a follow up visit and you will be asked to not eat or drink for 8 hours.
  • You will be asked to remove your clothing and given a gown to wear. You will be placed on your side on the X-ray table and a rectal tube will be inserted into your rectum to allow the barium to flow into your colon.
  • A series of X-rays will then be taken. A barium enema is used because it shows up on X-rays and coats the inside of your digestive tract, allowing the physician to find problem areas such as ulcers.
  • Following the examination, some barium will be expelled immediately. You will be assisted to the bathroom or given a bedpan.
  • Since the barium liquid is not absorbed by the body it will pass in your stools, so your stools might be lighter in color until all of the barium passes.
  • Barium may cause constipation after the procedure if it is not completely eliminated from your body. You may be advised to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in fiber to expel the barium from the body.

Biopsy

During a Colonoscopy or EGD the physician might find it necessary to perform a biopsy of your digestive tract. The physician will take a small sample of the tissue that lines the digestive tract, which will be examined under a microscope to assess the status of the cells lining your digestive tract.

Page last updated: 6/13/2014 12:07:43 PM