Karoly Horvath, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Director, Peds GI & Nutrition Laboratory; University of Maryland at Baltimore: The biopsy is a small piece of tissue, such as from the inside lining of the intestine, that has been removed to look for diseases. The biopsy itself is not painful, because there are no pain-sensitive nerves inside the small intestine. An intestinal biopsy can be done in either of two ways depending on the age of the children and the tradition of the institution. Sometimes a blind biopsy procedure is performed by a biopsy capsule. This is thin flexible tube with a capsule at the tip, which has a hole and a tiny knife inside the capsule. This capsule is introduced into the intestine under fluoroscopy (X-ray) control. Alternatively, with an endoscopy the doctor can see inside the digestive tract without using an x-ray to obtain biopsies. The biopsy specimens are processed and viewed under the microscope to identify or exclude celiac disease. An important basic rule is that the biopsy should be performed safely. For a safe procedure children (and adults) should be sedated. There are two methods of sedation: unconscious (general anesthesia) and conscious sedation. During both kinds of sedation the vital parameters (heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation) of patients are continuously monitored. The method of choice depends on the child.

Conscious sedation is performed with two different intravenous medications. One of them is a sedative medication (e.g. Versed), which causes amnesia in 80-90% of children, and even older children do not recall the procedure. The second medication is a pain-killer type medication (e.g. Fentanyl), which further reduces the discomfort associated with the procedure. In addition, the throat is sprayed with a local anesthetic in older children, which makes the throat numb and prevents retching at the introduction of the endoscope.

During general anesthesia the anesthesiologist uses sleep-gases (e.g. halothan) and intravenous medications and then places a tube into the trachea. Children are completely unconscious. This is a safer way to perform endoscopy, because the patients are fully relaxed and their airway is protected. However, the anesthesia itself has certain complications.

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