Computed Tomography Enterography

(CTE)

Definition

Computed tomography enterography (CTE) is used to make pictures of the small intestine. The small intestine is part of the digestive system. It lies between the stomach and large intestine.

A CTE creates an x-ray picture that is enhanced by a computer. It can provide information about organs, soft tissues, bones, and blood vessels.

The Small Intestine

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Reasons for Test    TOP

A CTE may be used to help find the cause of problems in the intestines, such as:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Tumors
  • Pockets of infection—abscesses
  • Abnormal passageway between 2 areas of the body that normally do not connect—fistula
  • Intestinal obstruction

It may also be used to diagnose or check for Crohn’s disease.

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will review potential problems.

Some people have a bad reaction to the contrast material. Contrast material improves the details in the pictures. In some people, the contrast can cause allergic reactions or kidney problems.

A CTE scan does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A CTE scan may not be advised if you are pregnant.

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test. Let your doctor know about any allergies or unrelated illnesses you may have.

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Test

The doctor may instruct you to:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything for 4 hours before the test
  • Remove any metal objects, such as jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures

Description of Test

You will be asked to drink several glasses of liquid about 1-2 hours before the test. This liquid is contrast. It will help to fill the small intestine and create clearer pictures. If you are unable to drink all the liquid, you may be given a feeding tube. You will also be given a second contrast through an IV. This will help the doctors see certain structures like blood vessels.

You will be asked to lie on a special table. The technician may use pillows or straps to make sure you are in the best position. The technician will leave the room but you will be able to talk to one another through an intercom.

The table will move slowly through the scanner. You may need to take several passes through the machine. For the clearest image, you will need to be still during the entire test. As the scanner takes pictures, you will hear humming and clicking. The technician may also ask you to hold your breath at certain points. Your doctor may offer medication if you are having trouble holding still because of pain or anxiety.

After Test    TOP

The technician will make sure the needed images are taken.

You may be asked to drink extra fluids. This will help flush the contrast from your intestines. You may have diarrhea or loose bowels while the contrast passes.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

About 10-60 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP

The test itself does not hurt. Holding one position through the test may be uncomfortable. Your doctor may offer medication if you have pain during the test.

You may also feel flushed from the contrast. Contrast can also cause nausea and a salty or metallic taste in your mouth.

Results    TOP

The CTE images will be sent to a radiologist. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if any of the following occur after the test:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Swollen, itchy eyes
  • Tightness of throat
  • Difficulty breathing

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America
http://www.radiologyinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Radiologists
http://www.car.ca
Canadian Radiation Protection Association
http://www.crpa-acrp.org

References:

Baker ME, Einstein DM, Veniero JC. Computed tomography enterography and magnetic resonance enterography: the future of small bowel imaging. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2008;21(3):193–212.
CT enterography. American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 13, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Last reviewed March 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 6/24/2013

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