Is an Endoscopy?
An endoscopy is
a procedure in which your doctor uses specialized instruments to view and
operate on the internal organs and vessels of your body. It allows surgeons to
view problems within your body without making large incisions.
A surgeon inserts an endoscope through a small cut, or an opening
in the body such as the mouth. An endoscope is
a flexible tube with an attached camera that allows your doctor to see. Your
doctor can use forceps (tongs) and scissors on the endoscope to operate or
remove tissue for biopsy.
Do I Need an Endoscopy?
Your doctor may order an endoscopy to visually examine an organ.
An endoscope’s lighted camera allows your doctor to view potential problems
without a large incision. A screen in the operating room lets the doctor see
exactly what the endoscope sees.
Your doctor may suspect that an organ or specific area of your
body is infected, damaged, or cancerous. In this case, your doctor may order
an endoscopic biopsy. An
endoscopic biopsy involves using forceps in an endoscope to remove a small
sample of tissue. They will send the sample to a lab for testing.
Your doctor will review your symptoms, perform a physical
examination, and possibly order some blood tests prior to an endoscopy. These
tests will help your doctor gain a more accurate understanding of the possible
cause of your symptoms. These tests may also help them determine if the
problems can be treated without an endoscopy or surgery.
Do I Prepare for an Endoscopy?
Your doctor will give you complete instructions on how to prepare
for your endoscopy. Most types of endoscopy require you to fast for up to 12
hours before the procedure, but your doctor will clarify this. Your doctor may
give you laxatives or enemas to use the night before the procedure to clear
your system. This is common in procedures involving into the gastrointestinal
tract through the anus.
Prior to the endoscopy, your doctor will do a physical
examination and go over your complete medical history, including any prior
surgeries. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking,
including over-the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements, and also alert
your doctor about any allergies you might have. You may need to stop taking
certain medications if they might affect bleeding.
You may want to plan for someone else to drive you home after the
procedure because you might not feel well from the anesthesia.
Are the Types of Endoscopy?
Endoscopies fall into categories, based on the area of the body
that they investigate. The American
Cancer Society (ACS) lists the following types of endoscopies:
is used to examine your joints. The scope is inserted through a small
incision near the joint being examined.
is used to examine your lungs. The scope is inserted into your nose or mouth.
is used to examine your colon. The scope is inserted through your anus.
is used to examine your bladder. The scope is inserted through your urethra,
which is the hole through which you urinate.
is used to examine your small intestine. The scope is inserted through your mouth
is used for the examining the inside of your uterus. The scope is inserted
through your vagina.
is used to examine your abdominal or pelvic area. The scope is inserted through
a small incision near the area that’s being examined.
is used to examine your voice box, or larynx. The scope is inserted through
your mouth or nostril.
is used to examine the area between the lungs called the “mediastinum.” The
scope is inserted through an incision above your breastbone.
gastrointestinal endoscopy is used to examine your esophagus and upper
intestinal tract. The scope is inserted through your mouth.
is used to examine your ureter. The scope is inserted through your urethra.
Are the Risks of an Endoscopy?
Endoscopy has a much lower risk of bleeding and infection than
open surgery. Still, endoscopy is a medical procedure, so it has some risk of
bleeding, infection, and other rare complications such as:
- chest pain
- damage to your organs, including possible
- persistent pain in the area of endoscopy
- redness and swelling at the incision site
The risks for each type depend on the location of the procedure
and your own condition. For example, dark-colored stools, vomiting, and
difficulty swallowing after a colonoscopy could indicate that something is
Ask your doctors about symptoms to look out for following your
Happens After an Endoscopy?
Most endoscopies are outpatient procedures. This means you can go
home the same day.
Your doctor will close incision wounds with stitches and properly
bandage them immediately after the procedure. Your doctor will give you
instructions on how to care for this wound on your own.
Some procedures, such as a colonoscopy, may leave you slightly
uncomfortable. It may require some time to feel well enough to go about your
If your doctor suspects a cancerous growth, they’ll perform a
biopsy during your endoscopy. The results will take a few days. Your doctor
will discuss the results with you after they get them back from the laboratory.