Small bowel bleeding accounts for 5% of all gastrointestinal bleeding events. However, access to the small bowel remains challenging given its length of nearly 12 to 20 feet. Novel techniques such as wireless capsule endoscopy and balloon enteroscopy have allowed gastroenterologists to now visualize and perform therapies deep within the small intestine.

The University of Chicago Medicine was the first center in the Midwest to perform double balloon enteroscopy in 2004 and since that time has become an international leader in the management of small bowel bleeding. Led by Dr. Carol Semrad, UChicago Medicine has a multidisciplinary program — in partnership with radiology and general surgery — focused on the identification and management of small bowel bleeding.

Small Bowel Bleeding Treatment Options

The length of a typical scope used by gastroenterologists to diagnose and treat bleeding within the stomach and colon can limit therapy deep within the small intestine. Specialized scopes called double balloon enteroscopy systems allow for the treating gastroenterologist to inch their way into the small bowel with a series of balloons attached to the end of the scope.

This allows for non-invasive access into the small bowel to treat bleeding vascular lesions using electricity (argon plasma coagulation or bipolar coagulation) or small metal clips placed over the bleeding source. If polyps are present, we can also remove them during the procedure using snare techniques. If additional abnormalities are spotted, we can mark them with tattoo ink to enhance visualization for a surgeon during a surgical resection.

Comprehensive Care from a Team of Specialists

Since 2003, the University of Chicago Medicine has been an internationally recognized for the diagnosis and management of small bowel bleeding and as one of leading organizations in training physicians to perform double enteroscopy.

Given the wide range of causes and underlying conditions that can lead to small bowel bleeding, UChicago Medicine has created a multidisciplinary team consisting of gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists dedicated to the diagnosis and management of small bowel bleeding.