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Diagnostic Tests Used for Crohn’s Disease

In order to diagnose Crohn’s disease, doctors must first evaluate all of their patient’s symptoms. This extensive process allows them to eliminate any other possible causes for their patient’s present condition. Fortunately, medical imaging technology is at a level where doctors can effectively pinpoint the exact location and severity of the patient’s inflammation. A positive diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is the first step in treating this inflammatory bowel condition.

Crohn’s disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose, mainly because it is not easy to examine a person’s small intestine. This is where more advanced imaging technology has made such a significant difference when looking at the small bowel. Some of the more advanced tests available for diagnosing Crohn’s disease include:

MR and CT Enterography

These are non invasive tests designed to be a more sensitive alternative to the traditional imaging procedures used to identify inflammation in the intestines. MR and CT enterography can also identify pockets of bacterial infection (abscesses) and unnatural spaces that can form between intestinal loops or between the intestine and the other organs (fistulas).

Endoscopic Ultrasound

Doctors may also use endoscopic ultrasounds to diagnose cases of Crohn’s disease. During this procedure, an ultrasound probe attached to an endoscope is inserted into the patient’s rectum. This gives doctors a clear view of the patient’s intestines. This procedure is very useful for spotting fistulas and sources of intestinal bleeding.

Balloon-Assisted Enteroscopy

If a patient has internal bleeding that can’t be identified with other tests, then doctors can use balloon-assisted enteroscopy. The patient is first sedated, and then a scope fitted with two special balloons is fed into the digestive tract via the mouth. Once inside, the balloons are remotely inflated allowing for an unobstructed view of the inner folds of the digestive tract.

Colonoscopy

By using a special device known as a colonoscope, doctors are able to examine the entire colon. During the procedure, they will extract tiny tissue samples from the inside of the colon for laboratory testing. Doctors may perform a colonoscopy to look for clusters of inflamed cells known as granulomas, which would help rule out the possibility of ulcerative colitis.

Small Bowel Imaging

This imaging test examines the portion of the small bowel that cannot be examined during a colonoscopy. The patient is given a solution containing barium, which coats the intestines in a material which will help to highlight any diseased or affected areas when an MRI, CT scan, or X-ray is taken. This diagnostic test can identify inflammation or any narrowing of the patient’s small bowel which could be caused by Crohn’s disease. Small bowel imaging is helpful in diagnosing other types of inflammatory bowel disease as well.

In order to make a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, doctors have to accurately interpret the intestinal tissue samples taken from the patient. Under certain circumstances, they may need to bring in a pathologist who specializes in inflammatory bowel disorders to help them interpret these biopsies.