Computed Tomography Enterography
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
A CTE may be used to help find the cause of problems in the intestines, such as:
- Pockets of infection—abscesses
- Abnormal passageway between 2 areas of the body that normally do not connect—fistula
- Intestinal obstruction
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
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.
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?
About 10-60 minutes
Will It Hurt?
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.
The CTE images will be sent to a radiologist. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of the following occur after the test:
- Swollen, itchy eyes
- Tightness of throat
- Difficulty breathing
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America
Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association
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:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=CTenterography. Updated August 13, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
James Cornell, MD
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