Upper Gastrointestinal X-ray Exam
The upper gastrointestinal X-ray exam permits physicians to look for abnormalities in the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. This test is often performed in the morning, before your child has had anything to eat. For the test, your child will drink barium, a liquid which is visible on X-rays. A radiologist takes X-rays as the barium moves down the esophagus into the stomach and through the intestines. The test takes one to three hours to perform.
Barium Enema Exam
To evaluate the large intestine, your child may require a barium enema exam. There are two types of barium enema exams. The first type, the full column barium enema, is designed for children with constipation or soiling. A technician inserts a small plastic tube into your child's rectum. Liquid barium then flows through the tube to fill the colon so it can be studied. This test takes from 30 to 60 minutes.
A second type of barium enema, the air-contrast barium enema, is designed to look for inflammation or polyps (growths) in the large intestine. For this test, your child's colon must be emptied of stool. Your child will have a special diet the day before the exam and will take a special type of laxative to stimulate frequent stools. You will also give your child suppositories the night before and the morning of the exam at home. During the exam, a small plastic tube will be used to fill your child's colon with barium and air. This helps gastroenterology specialists see the inner lining of the colon in great detail.
Ultrasound helps gastroenterology specialists examine the liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and kidneys. Your child must fast six hours before an ultrasound to provide a clear view of the organs. During this painless procedure, your child lies quietly while the radiologist moves the ultrasound probe across the abdomen. A cool jelly coats the probe to improve the ultrasound picture quality.
Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Exam
Compassionate nurses who are experienced in helping children through these tests will start an intravenous line and help administer medications to relax your child and relieve potential pain. During this test, a long, thin telescope -- about as wide as a pen -- is inserted into the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and intestine. Through this telescope and its television camera, the gastroenterologist can see the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestine. Small biopsies can be obtained from this lining. Sensors attached to your child also monitor heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels to ensure safe conditions throughout the procedure. A typical upper gastrointestinal endoscopy takes about 20 minutes.
With this test, the physician examines the inside lining of the entire length of the colon or large intestine. To facilitate this examination, the colon must be emptied of stool. Your child will require a special diet the day before the exam and will need to take prescribed medication to encourage passage of stool. Your child will be sedated with medication given through an intravenous line. The physician then passes a long, thin telescope through the anus and along the length of the colon. Through the telescope and its attached television camera, the physician can see the lining of the colon. Small biopsies can be obtained from this lining. At times, polyps or small growths can be removed. Sensors attached to your child monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels to ensure safe conditions during the exam. A typical colonoscopy takes about 60 minutes. Generally, your child will be awake and able to drink fluids within one hour after the exam.
Other Specialized Procedures
At times, children require other procedures for diagnosis or therapy. If your child should require any of these procedures, the gastroenterology medical team will review with you in great detail the reason for the test, exact procedures of the test, possible outcomes, and potential risks. These procedures could include:
Suction Rectal Biopsy
A painless biopsy of the inner lining of the rectum without sedation, most often performed in infants or children being evaluated for severe constipation
A needle biopsy of the liver, most often performed to diagnose liver disease if your child's blood tests do not provide an exact diagnosis
Acid Reflux Study
The placement of a spaghetti-strand probe into the esophagus for prolonged monitoring to measure reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Examination of the ducts or tubes within the liver or pancreas, using an endoscope, while your child is under sedation or general anesthesia
Measurement of muscle pressures within the anus
Computed tomography scan (CT scan). This diagnostic imaging procedure uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio-frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. The patient lies on a bed that moves into the cylindrical MRI machine. The machine takes a series of pictures of the inside of the body using a magnetic field and radio waves. The computer enhances the pictures produced. The test is painless, and does not involve exposure to radiation. Because the MRI machine is like a tunnel, some people are claustrophobic or unable to hold still during the test, and may be given a sedative to help them relax. Metal objects cannot be present in the MRI room, so persons with pacemakers or metal clips or rods inside the body cannot have this test done. All jewelry must be removed before the procedure.
Liver biopsy. A small sample of liver tissue is obtained with a special biopsy needle and examined for abnormalities.