by Jones P


Computed tomography enterography (CTE) makes 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
nucleus fact sheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

A CTE may be done to find the cause of problems in the intestines, such as:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Tumors
  • Pockets of infection—abscesses
  • Abnormal passageway between two areas of the body that normally do not connect—fistula
  • Blockage

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

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as a bad reaction to the contrast material used to improve picture quality.

A CTE scan does use radiation. Radiation does not cause short-term health complications. But doses may build up in the body over time with each test. This can raise the risk of some cancers. The risk is higher in children and women who could get or are pregnant.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

The care team will meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Fasting before the test, such as avoiding food or drink for 4 hours before the test
  • Whether you may be pregnant

Description of Test

You will be asked to drink several glasses of liquid about 1 to 2 hours before the test. This liquid is contrast. It will help to fill the small intestine and create clearer pictures. People who cannot drink all this liquid 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 table. Pillows or straps may be used 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. You will need to be still during the entire test. You will hear humming and clicking as the pictures are taken. You may be asked to hold your breath at certain points. Medicine may be given to people who have trouble holding still because of pain or anxiety.

After Test

You may be asked to drink extra fluids. This will help flush the contrast from the intestines. You may have diarrhea or loose bowels while the contrast passes.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10 to 60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Most people do not have any problems after this test. You will be able to go back to normal activities.


The pictures will be sent to a doctor who specializes in reading them. Your doctor will share the results with you.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you have any problems, such as:

  • A rash or itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Swollen, itchy eyes
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Problems breathing

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Cancer Society 

Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America 


Canadian Association of Radiologists 

Canadian Radiation Protection Association 


CT enterography. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Accessed September 16, 2020.

Reducing radiation from medical x-rays. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN
  • Review Date: 03/2020
  • Update Date: 03/24/2021