Early diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease can improve treatment outcomes and prevent further damage to the colon. In some cases, people with inflammatory bowel disease may have the disease for years, and despite considerable damage to their bowels, may experience little or no symptoms. In addition, because symptoms often mimic other conditions, the disease can be very difficult to diagnose.
If your doctor suspects inflammatory bowel disease, he or she will conduct a physical exam, a medical history as well as several tests. Blood tests can determine the presence of inflammation in your child's body, which is often a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease. They can also detect anemia and infection. Your child's stool will be examined for the presence of blood. There are many blood and some stool tests that can lead your doctor to suspect inflammatory bowel disease. However, there is no one test that is absolutely reliable in making the diagnosis; the complete clinical presentation needs to be viewed as a whole.
Your doctor may also perform an upper endoscopy to check the esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine for inflammation, bleeding or ulcers. During the procedure, tissue samples from the colon called a biopsy may be taken for further examination.
Upper GI Series
A barium study of the intestines may also be ordered. This involves drinking a thick white solution called barium, which appears white on X-ray film, to allow your doctor to get a better perspective of the intestines.
A colonoscopy allows your doctor to examine your child's colon for bleeding, inflammation or ulcers. A colonoscopy is performed by inserting a long, thin tube attached to a tiny camera called an endoscope through the anus.
This procedure provides a visual picture of the structures in the body at various planes and is considered superior to a traditional CT scan. It is performed to detect small intestinal and colorectal inflammatory changes in the abdomen. The patient must drink a small amount of gadolinium, a special contrast agent that allows physicians to visualize structures in the body more distinctly.
If prior tests are still inconclusive, a capsule endoscopy may be recommended. A capsule endoscopy allows your doctor to get a more complete picture of the small colon than is possible with a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy. It is generally recommended in children nine years and older. During this procedure, your child will swallow a pill about the size of a jellybean that is actually a tiny camera protected by a smooth outer coating. The camera will take up to 50,000 images as it makes an eight-hour journey through the digestive tract. The patient may continue with their normal activities and will feel no sensations from the capsule. The images are transmitted to antenna pads placed on the body and captured on a recording device about the size of a portable CD Player, which is worn around the patient's waist. These images are later transferred to a computer, which can then be evaluated by your doctor. The pill is expelled normally through a bowel movement.