WHAT IS ENDOSCOPY?
This is a procedure in which your physician will use specialized instruments to view and operate on the internal organs and vessels of the body. It allows surgeons to view problems within the body without making large incisions. The surgeon will insert an endoscope through a small cut, or an opening in the body such as the mouth or rectum. An endoscope is a flexible tube with an attached camera that will allow the physician to see.
WHY WOULD YOU NEED AN ENDOSCOPY?
Your physician may order an endoscopy to visually examine an organ. A lighted camera attached to the endoscope will allow your physician to view and diagnose any potential problems, this can be done without a large incision. Images wil be projected onto a screen which lets the physician see exactly what the endoscope sees.
If your physician suspects that an organ or specific area of your body is infected, damaged or cancerous, your physician may order an endoscopic biopsy. An endoscopic biopsy involves using forceps in an endoscope to remove a small sample of tissue, this sample will be sent to the lab for testing.
Your physician 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.
Doctors will often recommend an endoscopy to evaluate:
- Stomach pain
- Ulcers, gastritis, or difficulty in swallowing
- Digestive tract bleeding
- Changes in bowel habits (chronic constipation or diarrhea)
- Polyps or growths in the colon
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR AN ENDOSCOPY?
Examining the upper digestive tract (upper endoscopy or ERCP) requires nothing more than fasting for 6-8 hours prior to the procedure. In order to examine the colon, it must be cleared of stool. Therefore, an enema, laxative or group of laxatives is given on the day before the procedure. Prior to the endoscopy, your physician will do a physical examination and go over your complete medical history, including any prior surgeries. Be sure to tell your physician about any medications you're taking, including over-the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements, and also alert your physician about any allergies you might have. It is recommended to plan for someone else to drive you home after the procedure because you might not feel well from the anesthesia.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ENDOSCOPY?
Endoscopies fall into categories, this is based on the area of the body which they investigate. The following types of endoscopies are but not limited to:
- Arthroscopy - is used to examine your joints. The scope is inserted through a small incision near the joint being examined.
- Bronchoscopy - is used to examine your lungs. The scope is into your nose or mouth.
- Colonoscopy - is used to examine your colon. The scope is inserted through your anus.
- Cystoscopy - is used to examine your bladder. The scope is inserted through your urethra, which is the hole through which your urinate.
- Enteroscopy - is used to examine your small intestine. The scope is inserted through your mouth or anus.
- Hysteroscopy - is used for examining the inside of your uterus. The scope is inserted through your vagina.
- Laparoscopy - is used to examine your abdominal or pelvic area. The scope is inserted through a small incision near the area that's being examined.
- Laryngoscopy - is used to examine your voice box or larynx. The scope is inserted through your mouth or nostril.
- Mediastinoscopy - is used to examine the area between the lungs called the "mediastinum." The scope is inserted through an incision above your breastbone.
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy - is used to examine your esophagus and upper intestinal tract. The scope is inserted through your mouth.
- Ureteroscopy - is used to examine your ureter. The scope is inserted through your urethra.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF AN ENDOSCOPY?
Overall, endoscopy is very safe. It has a much lower risk of bleeding and infection than open surgery, but is still a medical procedure, so it has some risks and a few potential complications which may include:
- Chest pain
- Damage to your organs, including perforation (tear in the gut wall)
- Pancreatitis as a result of ERCP
- Persistent pain in the area of endoscopy
- Reaction to sedation
- Redness and swelling at the incision site
The risks for each type depend on the location of the procedure and your own condition. Ask your physicians about symptoms to look out for following your endoscopy.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ENDOSCOPY?
Most endoscopies are outpatient procedures. What this means is that you can go home the same day after the procedure. Your physician will close incision wounds with stitches and properly bandage them immediately after the procedure. Your physician will give you instructions on how to care for this wound on your own.
Some procedures, such as colonoscopy, may leave you slightly uncomfortable. It may require some time to feel well enough to go about your daily business. If your physician suspects a cancerous growth, they'll perform a biopsy during your endoscopy. The results will take a few days. Your physician will discuss the results with you after they get them back from the laboratory.