Transabdominal ultrasonography of the small bowel after oral administration of a non-absorbable anechoic solution: comparison with barium enteroclysis

Clin Radiol. 2001 Mar;56(3):225-30. doi: 10.1053/crad.2000.0625.


Aim: The aim of this study was to determine if oral administration of a non-absorbable anechoic solution conveys any benefit during abdominal ultrasound (US), with special reference to its accuracy.

Materials and methods: Fifty-three adult out-patients scheduled for small bowel barium enema (SBE) were included. The day before SBE all patients underwent abdominal US before and after oral administration of an isotonic non-absorbable electrolyte solution containing polyethylene glycol (PEG-ELS). Sensitivity and specificity were evaluated using SBE as a gold standard.

Results: After ingestion of PEG-ELS satisfactory distension of the intestinal lumen was obtained (11-25 mm) with sequential visualization of jejunoileal loops in 30.9 +/- 17.3 min. In 15 out of 53 cases both US and SBE showed bowel changes characteristic of Crohn's disease. In three out of 53 cases both US and SBE showed neoplasms. In one out of 53 cases US was negative, SBE positive for local nodularity and ulcerations typical of Crohn's disease. In one out of 53 cases US was negative, SBE positive for macronodularity consistent with coeliac disease. In five out of 53 cases US was negative, while SBE was positive for mininodularity expressive of lymphoid hyperplasia. In 28 out of 53 cases both examinations were negative.

Conclusion: PEG-ELS administration allows a thorough US investigation of the small bowel, with fair sensitivity (72%) and excellent specificity (100%). False negative findings are mainly due to lymphoid hyperplasia, a feature of uncertain significance in adults.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Barium Sulfate*
  • Celiac Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Contrast Media / pharmacokinetics*
  • Crohn Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestine, Small / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Polyethylene Glycols* / pharmacokinetics
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pseudolymphoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surface-Active Agents* / pharmacokinetics
  • Ultrasonography


  • Contrast Media
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Polyethylene Glycols