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Modern endoscopic techniques have revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, and duodenum) and the colon. The last remaining frontier has been the small intestine.
The small intestine has been a difficult organ in which to make diagnoses and treat without performing surgery. Radiologicalprocedures, specifically the upper GI series with small bowel follow-through, which involves following swallowed barium as it passes through the intestine with x-ray films, have been available for diagnosis, but these radiological procedures are time-consuming and are not accurate in identifying small tumors and other subtle abnormalities of the small intestine. The demand for improved capabilities in the small intestine has been less because a minority of intestinal diseases involve the small intestine beyond the reach of the upper gastrointestinal endoscope and the colonoscope. Nevertheless, improved diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities in the small intestine would be very useful, particularly in uncovering the causes of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and anemia due to intestinal loss of blood and diagnosing diseases that may involve only the small intestine, for example, Crohn's disease. One of the newer technologies that expands the diagnostic capabilities in the small intestine is capsule endoscopy also known as wireless capsule endoscopy.