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Diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will attempt to rule out other conditions, such as infection, that may be causing your symptoms.

The following tests may be done:

Blood Tests —A sample of your blood is taken and sent to the lab to be checked for anemia and signs of inflammation.

Stool Examination —You will provide a stool (feces) sample that will be examined for the presence of blood or infection.

Barium Swallow —You will drink a liquid that contains barium; a series of x-rays will be taken that visualize the structure of the upper part of your digestive tract. The barium shows up on the x-rays and outlines your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. This test may be done to check for Crohn’s disease.

Barium Enema —A fluid containing barium is injected into the rectum, and a series of x-rays are taken of your intestines. Barium makes your colon show up on x-ray. This test may be done to diagnose and evaluate the extent of inflammatory bowel disease.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy —A thin, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower part of the colon. The doctor will check for any abnormalities in the rectum, such as sores, redness, and fragile tissue.

Colonoscopy —A thin, lighted tube is inserted through the rectum and into the colon to examine the lining of the entire colon. The doctor will check for any abnormalities associated with IBD.

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Biopsy —A sample of tissue from the colon is removed for testing. The tissue may be removed during a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy. A pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2014 -
  • Update Date: 09/17/2014 -
  • American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: Accessed March 6, 2006.

  • Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America website. Available at: Accessed March 6, 2006.

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: Accessed March 6, 2006.

  • Primary Care Medicine. 4th ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2000.

  • Rakel RE and Bope ET. Conn's Current Therapy 2001. 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company; 2001.