The Different Types of Endoscopy Procedures

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An endoscopy is a medical procedure that uses a long flexible tube with a camera on one end to see the inside of your body. An endoscopy is usually done when visualization of internal organs is necessary to make a diagnosis. Typically, an endoscopy allows a diagnosis to be made with less risk than surgery. Endoscopy may also be used to gain access to internal organs for treatment.

doctor holding an endoscope
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Endoscopy is typically considered a "minimally invasive" procedure. Before endoscopic procedures existed, surgery was often necessary to access the inside of the body. Endoscopic procedures can also be done without the general anesthesia often necessary for surgery, and therefore may carry less risk.

This article discusses what an endoscopy is, why you may need one, how it is done, and different types of endoscopy procedures.

What is an Endoscopy?

An endoscope is a flexible tube with a lighted camera attached. The camera allows internal body structures to be visualized on a monitor.

During endoscopy, an endoscope is usually inserted down through the mouth or up through the anus and rectum. It is also possible to enter through a small incision made in the skin when evaluating the inside of joints, the chest, or the abdomen.

Some endoscopes have specialized ends that allow tissue samples to be removed or treatment to be administered. Your healthcare provider will let you know what to expect with your specific procedure.

Complications

Possible complications of endoscopy include bleeding, a tear in the wall of the cavity being entered, and reactions to sedation medications. In some cases, there may also be a risk of infection from endoscopy, but specialized cleaning processes are used to help minimize the risk.

Anesthesia

Endoscopy is most often performed under sedation from IV medications. Patients often sleep during the procedure. Typically the sleep is quite light, and most people awaken shortly after the procedure is done. This type of sedation has sometimes been called "twilight sleep." With some procedures, general anesthesia may also be given.

If you are given sedation for your procedure, you will need another adult to drive you home afterward.

Preparation

Preparing for an endoscopy most often requires fasting (not eating) for six to eight hours prior to the procedure. For endoscopy of the colon (colonoscopy), a laxative to clean the bowels will also be used.

Why You May Need an Endoscopy

A healthcare provider may recommend an endoscopy to:

  • Confirm a diagnosis
  • Investigate symptoms
  • Treat a medical problem

Your provider will review the purpose of the procedure, expected benefits, and possible risks with you before performing your endoscopy.

Types of Endoscopy

There are many types of endoscopy procedures, including:

  • Arthroscopy: Used to examine your joints. The scope is inserted through a small cut in the skin near your joint.
  • Bronchoscopy: Used to examine the large airways of the lungs (bronchial tubes). The scope is inserted through your mouth and into your airway.
  • Colonoscopy: Used to examine your colon. The scope is inserted through your anus and is passed up the far end of the large intestine.
  • Colposcopy: Used to examine your cervix. The scope is inserted through your vaginal opening.
  • Cystoscopy: Used to examine the inside of your bladder. The scope is inserted through your urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body).
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): Used to examine your bile and pancreatic ducts. The scope is inserted through your mouth and threaded down your digestive tract.
  • Esophogealgastroduodenoscopy (EGD): Used to examine your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The tube is inserted through your mouth and guided down your digestive tract.
  • Laparoscopy: Used to examine your peritoneal cavity (the area that holds the abdominal organs). The scope is inserted through small incisions in your abdomen.
  • Laryngoscopy: Used to examine your larynx (voice box). The scope is inserted through your mouth.
  • Mediastinoscopy: Used to examine the space between your lungs (the mediastinum). The scope is inserted through an incision in your chest wall.
  • Proctoscopy: Used to examine the rectum (the last 6 to 8 inches of the colon or large intestine). The scope is inserted through the anus.
  • Thoracoscopy: Used to examine your lungs. The scope is inserted through small incisions in your chest wall.

Summary

Endoscopy is a way for your health care team to be able to examine your internal organs, investigate symptoms, confirm a diagnosis, and potentially treat a medical problem. The small camera on the endoscope allows the healthcare team to see tiny body structures on a big screen. Depending on what part of your body is being examined, the endoscopy procedure can have a specialized medical name.

A Word from Verywell

It can be scary to need an endoscopy to get a diagnosis or treat an injury. Endoscopy procedures are typically easy to prepare for and you may be able to go home the same day. Talk with your provider about what to expect in your situation and ask any questions you may have to feel more comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between an endoscopy and gastroscopy?

    A gastroscopy is one type of endoscopy. While an EGD often goes beyond the stomach, a gastroscopy uses an endoscope to look at the stomach only.

  • What is the alternative to endoscopy?

    Typically, the alternative to endoscopy is surgery. In some cases, your provider may be able to diagnose a problem with a non-invasive test like a CT scan. Your healthcare team will discuss any options and recommendations with you.

  • What type of cancers can an endoscopy detect?

    Some endoscopy equipment includes the ability to take a small tissue sample called a biopsy. A biopsy can be taken from any kind of tissue including the esophagus, stomach, intestine, colon, rectum, or lung.

  • Which is better: CT scan or endoscopy?

    A CT scan is completely non-invasive. Endoscopy is typically minimally invasive. However, an endoscopy can sometimes be used to treat your medical condition. Your healthcare provider will discuss the goals of the proposed testing and tell you which is recommended in your circumstance.

  • How long does an endoscopy take?

    Many of the common types of endoscopy procedures take 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Sedation, the need for an incision, and other factors may mean you will be at the facility for up to several hours. Your provider should let you know what to expect when scheduling your procedure.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed
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