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Introduction to endoscopy
The use of upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopes has revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, and colon (large intestine). The last remaining frontier in the intestines has been the small intestine. Wireless capsule endoscopy allows physicians to visualize the inside of the intestines from the esophagus through to the colon, but capsule endoscopy has limitations, the most notable of which are the inability to control the capsule's passage and to perform therapeutic interventions, such as biopsy and electrocautery. Although capsule endoscopy is likely to remain an important diagnostic procedure because of its simplicity, the limitations of capsule endoscopy have been overcome by the development of balloon endoscopy, also known as enteroscopy.
What is balloon endoscopy?
There are two types of balloon endoscopy: single balloon and double balloon.
Single balloon endoscopy
For single balloon endoscopy, a 200 cm long flexible, fiberoptic, endoscope (a hose-like tube one centimeter in diameter with a light and a camera on the tip) is fitted with an equally long overtube that slides the full length of the endoscope. On the tip of the overtube is a balloon that can be inflated and deflated. The balloon is blown up to anchor the overtube within the intestine. While the overtube is anchored, the endoscope can be advanced further into the small intestine. By withdrawing the overtube the small intestine can be shortened and straightened to make the passage of the inner endoscope easier. The balloon may then be deflated so that the overtube can be inserted further and the endoscope advanced again. The endoscope itself is a standard endoscope with working channels that allow the intestine to be inflated with air, rinsed with water, or used to guide biopsy or electrocautery instruments to the tip of the endoscope.