Double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE)

Having a double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE)

Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose your symptons therefore it may be necessary to have a double-balloon enteroscopy (DBE). This is an examination of your small bowel, to further investigate your medical condition.

What is DBE?

The small bowel is the longest part of the intestine: it is usually about 6 metres long. The length and ‘floppy’ nature of the small bowel have until recently made it very difficult for doctors to examine it without the need for a surgical operation. (Figure 1).


Figure 1: The diagram above represents a simplified view of the location of the small bowel (shaded in black) within the abdomen. The small bowel is the longest part of the intestine and is usually about 6 metres long. The small bowel is like a long, floppy tube, coiled up within the centre of the abdomen; these characteristics make the small bowel very difficult to examine.

Although the last few years have seen the development of various other technologies (such as capsule endoscopy, CT and MRI) which have made small bowel examination easier to perform, these tests only allow doctors to take pictures of the small bowel. Contrarily, in addition to also being able to allow direct inspection, DBE also allows us to take samples (biopsies) and apply therapy to potentially anywhere within the small bowel, without the need for surgery.

How it works

A DBE procedure is performed using a long, slim camera tube (enteroscope), assisted by two small rubber (latex) balloons and a soft plastic overtube. The two balloons lightly support the small bowel and allow the enteroscope to be gently advanced in a ‘caterpillar-like’ fashion.

DBE will benefit you by providing a clear diagnosis and possibly allowing the application of therapy without the need for surgery. If you prefer not to be investigated, we advise you to discuss the implications of not having the examination with your doctor.

Depending on which part of the small bowel needs to be examined, the enteroscope may be inserted through the mouth (Anterograde) or through the back passage (Retrograde).