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Computed Tomography Enterography


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Definition | Reasons for Test | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Results | Call Your Doctor


Computed tomography enterography (CTE) is used to make pictures of the small intestine. The small intestines are part of your digestive system. They lie 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:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Tumors
  • Abscesses, which are infected pockets
  • Fistula, which is an abnormal passageway between two areas of the body that normally do not connect
  • Obstruction in intestine

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

Possible Complications

Complications are rare. If you are planning to have a CTE scan, your doctor will review a list of possible complications.

Some people have a bad reaction to the contrast dye. The contrast is chemical that 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

Your doctor may instruct you to:

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

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 them 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.

About 10-60 minutes

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 a salty or metallic taste in your mouth and nausea.


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 occurs after the test:

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

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Cancer Society


Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America


Radiological Society of North America



Canadian Association of Radiologists


Canadian Radiation Protection Association



Baker ME, Einstein DM, et al. Computer Tomography Enterography and Magnetic Resonance Enterography: The Future of Small Bowel Imaging. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2008 August; 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 June 5, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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