What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a procedure that involves using a flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) to visualize the inside of the body, often for diagnosing and treating conditions.

Types of endoscopy and medical professionals conducting the endoscopy

There are different types of endoscopy procedures depending on the area being examined. Some common types include:

  • Upper endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy): This procedure involves examining the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It is commonly used to investigate symptoms like heartburn, difficulty swallowing, or gastrointestinal bleeding. A gastroenterologist performs this procedure.
  • Colonoscopy: This procedure involves the examination of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. It is used to screen and diagnose conditions such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and polyps. A gastroenterologist performs this procedure.
  • Bronchoscopy: This procedure examines the airways and lungs by passing the endoscope through the nose or mouth. It is used to diagnose and treat respiratory system conditions, such as lung infections or tumors. A pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon performs this procedure.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): This procedure combines endoscopy and X-ray imaging to examine the bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreas. It is commonly used to treat conditions like gallstones or to diagnose pancreatic disorders. A gastroenterologist performs this procedure.
  • Cystoscopy: Cystoscopy is a procedure used to examine the inside of the bladder and urethra. A urologist performs this test where a thin, flexible tube with a camera called a cystoscope is inserted into the urethra and advanced into the bladder.
  • Hysteroscopy: The hysteroscope allows the gynecologist to visualize the uterine cavity and diagnose or treat certain conditions. The hysteroscope is gently inserted into the uterus, and carbon dioxide gas or fluid is used to expand the uterine cavity for better visualization. The gynecologist examines the uterine lining and may take tissue samples if needed.

Endoscopy is generally considered a safer alternative to open surgery with a lower risk of bleeding and infection. There are other potential rare risks associated with endoscopy, including chest pain, organ damage or perforation, fever, persistent pain in the area of the endoscopy, and redness and swelling at the incision site.

Endoscopy procedure

Preparing for an endoscopy

Endoscopy is typically an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient does not need to stay overnight in the hospital. The duration of the procedure varies but generally takes about an hour to complete. The doctor who is going to perform the endoscopy procedure will provide specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.

In many cases, fasting for approximately 12 hours is required prior to the endoscopy. However, the fasting duration may vary depending on the endoscopy type.

For procedures involving examining the gastrointestinal tract, the gastroenterologist may recommend taking laxatives the night before to help clear the system and improve visibility.

Before the endoscopy, the doctor will conduct a thorough examination and review the patient’s medical history. It is important to inform them about all the medications as well as any previous surgeries.

During the procedure  

During an endoscopy, the patient will be given a sedative medication to help relax and make the procedure more comfortable. The endoscope is inserted through a natural body opening, such as the mouth or anus, and carefully guided through the respective organ or cavity being examined. The camera on the endoscope sends real-time images to a monitor, allowing the doctor to visualize and assess the condition of the tissues and organs.

After the procedure

After the procedure, the doctor will closely monitor the patient in the recovery room and provide instructions on how to care for them at home. It is common to wait in the hospital for one to two hours to allow the effects of sedation to wear off.

The patient may complain of some discomfort following the procedure, which may take some time to resolve before resuming normal activities. For instance, some may have a sore throat after an upper GI endoscopy and need to consume soft foods for a few days.

In the case of cystoscopy (for examination of the bladder), patients may notice blood in the urine, which should typically resolve within 24 hours. If the symptoms persist, contacting a doctor for further guidance is essential.

It is essential to have a thorough discussion with a doctor about the benefits, risks, and any specific preparations or precautions needed for an endoscopy procedure.


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