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Double-Balloon Enteroscopy Overview


Double balloon enteroscopy (DBE) is a specialized endoscopic procedure that enables visualization and treatment of the small intestine, which is often difficult to access with traditional endoscopy techniques.

The procedure involves the use of a specialized endoscope that has two balloons attached to it – one at the tip of the endoscope and the other at the overtube.

The endoscope is passed through the patient’s mouth or anus, depending on which part of the small intestine needs to be examined.

The process works as follows:

  • The first balloon is inflated, anchoring the overtube in place.
  • The second balloon, located at the tip of the endoscope, is advanced further into the small intestine and then inflated.
  • The first balloon is deflated, allowing the overtube to be moved forward.
  • This process is repeated, with the alternating inflation and deflation of the balloons, allowing the endoscope to “pleat” or “shorten” the small intestine, making it easier to visualize and access.

Double balloon enteroscopy is useful in diagnosing and treating various conditions of the small intestine, such as bleeding, tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, and other abnormalities.

The procedure can also be used to obtain tissue samples for biopsy or to perform therapeutic interventions like polyp removal, dilating strictures, or treating bleeding lesions.

As with any invasive procedure, there are risks associated with double balloon enteroscopy, such as bleeding, perforation, or infection.

However, it is generally considered a safe and effective method for evaluating the small intestine when performed by an experienced endoscopist.


Reasons For a Double-Balloon Enteroscopy


Double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE) is a valuable tool for diagnosing and treating various conditions involving the small intestine.

It is typically performed when other diagnostic methods, such as standard upper and lower endoscopies, capsule endoscopy, or imaging studies, have not provided a definitive diagnosis or when therapeutic intervention is required.

Some common reasons for a double-balloon enteroscopy include: 

  • Obscure gastrointestinal bleeding: DBE is often used to identify the source of gastrointestinal bleeding when it cannot be found using conventional endoscopy or imaging studies. This type of bleeding can be caused by vascular malformations, small bowel tumors, or ulcers.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): DBE can help diagnose and evaluate the extent of IBD, such as Crohn’s disease, in the small intestine, particularly when other imaging studies are inconclusive or insufficient.
  • Small bowel tumors: DBE can be used to visualize and biopsy small bowel tumors, such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), adenocarcinomas, or lymphomas, which are difficult to reach with conventional endoscopy.
  • Polyps and polyposis syndromes: DBE can be used to diagnose and treat polyps or polyposis syndromes, such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, in the small intestine.
  • Small bowel strictures: DBE can help identify and treat strictures or narrowing in the small intestine caused by conditions such as Crohn’s disease, radiation enteritis, or surgical adhesions.
  • Malabsorption syndromes: DBE can be used to evaluate and diagnose malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease or Whipple’s disease, when other diagnostic methods are inconclusive.
  • Retrieval of foreign bodies or retained capsules: In some cases, DBE can be used to retrieve foreign bodies or endoscopy capsules that have become lodged in the small intestine.
  • Gastrointestinal fistulas or abnormal connections: DBE can help identify and evaluate fistulas between the small intestine and other organs or structures.

It is essential to note that the decision to perform a double-balloon enteroscopy is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and the results of prior diagnostic tests.


Preparing for a Double-Balloon Enteroscopy


Preparing for a double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE) is an essential step to ensure the procedure’s success and minimize potential complications.

Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to prepare, which may vary depending on whether the DBE is performed via the oral (antegrade) or anal (retrograde) approach.

Here are some general guidelines for preparing for a DBE:

Diet and fasting:

You may be asked to follow a clear liquid diet for a day or two before the procedure. Clear liquids include water, clear broth, apple juice, plain tea, or black coffee.

You will likely be instructed to stop consuming any food or drink after midnight on the day before the procedure.

This ensures that your stomach and small intestine are empty during the examination.

Bowel preparation:

For an antegrade DBE (through the mouth), bowel preparation is usually not required.

For a retrograde DBE (through the anus), bowel preparation is essential. You will be given instructions on using a laxative solution or enema to clean out your colon.

This may involve drinking a large volume of a prescribed solution or taking over-the-counter laxatives. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to ensure your colon is adequately cleansed.


Inform your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or herbal supplements.

You may be asked to stop or adjust the dosage of certain medications, such as blood thinners, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or diabetes medications, before the procedure.

Always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medications.


Inform your healthcare provider if you have any allergies, particularly to medications, latex, or iodine, as these substances may be used during the procedure.

Sedation and anesthesia:

DBE is typically performed under conscious sedation or general anaesthesia, depending on the individual patient and the facility where the procedure is conducted.

Discuss your sedation or anaesthesia options with your healthcare provider and inform them of any previous adverse reactions to sedatives or anaesthetics.

Arrange transportation: 

Since you will be sedated for the procedure, you will not be able to drive yourself home afterward. Arrange for a friend or family member to accompany you and provide transportation.

Remember to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully to ensure the best possible outcome from your double-balloon enteroscopy.

If you have any questions or concerns about the preparation process, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider for clarification.


The Recovery After Double-Balloon Enteroscopy


Recovery after a double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE) may vary depending on the individual patient, the extent of the procedure, and whether any therapeutic interventions were performed during the examination.

Here are some general guidelines for the recovery process:

Post-procedure monitoring:

Immediately after the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area where your vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels, will be monitored as the sedation or anesthesia wears off. 

You may experience mild drowsiness, dizziness, or disorientation due to the sedative medications. These effects should resolve as the sedation wears off.

Discharge Instructions:

Once you are fully awake and stable, you will be given discharge instructions. These may include guidelines on resuming your regular diet, medications, and activities. 

You may be advised to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery for 24 hours after the procedure due to the lingering effects of sedation.

Side effects and complications:

You may experience mild bloating, gas, or abdominal discomfort after the procedure.

These symptoms are usually temporary and should resolve within a few hours to a day.

Although rare, complications can occur after a DBE, including bleeding, infection, or perforation. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Bloody or black, tarry stools
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

Follow-up appointments:

Your healthcare provider will typically schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the results of the DBE and any biopsy results if tissue samples were taken during the procedure.

If therapeutic interventions were performed, such as polyp removal or stricture dilation, your healthcare provider will discuss the appropriate follow-up care, including any additional testing or treatment that may be required.

In general, most patients recover quickly after a double-balloon enteroscopy and can return to their normal activities within a day or two.

However, your individual recovery time may vary depending on your overall health and the specifics of your procedure.

Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and recommendations for the best possible outcome. 




Dr. Deetlefs has earned the reputation of a trusted health expert providing consultative, diagnostic, and therapeutic endoscopic and related services to patients in Cape Town and beyond.  

Dr Eduan prides himself on his ability to help his patients to the best of his ability by embracing good listening skills, effective communication, compassion and knowledge and skill honed during years of private gastroenterology practice.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form
or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.