Endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope to look the inside of the body. An endoscope is a long, flexible tube that has a small light and camera at the end. Images from the endoscope are shown on a screen for your doctor to see. Endoscopy is commonly used to help your doctor see what's going on inside a specific part of your body without the need for surgery.
What is an endoscopy?
It can be difficult to diagnose disease within the digestive tract because it is traditionally hard to examine. Endoscopy was developed to give doctors the ability to assess and examine patients without surgery.
An endoscopy is performed using a tiny tube that is inserted without surgery into the patient’s digestive tract. This tube is sometimes referred to as a catheter and often resembles a wire. The instrument within the wire is called an endoscope and has a light and video camera that allow a doctor to directly view the inside of the body on a television monitor.
The endoscope can also be fitted with a small cutting device and pincers that allow the doctor to perform a biopsy for later lab analysis. Doctors can also use different types of endoscopes for different parts of the body. For instance, flexible endoscopes that bend easily can be used to examine the intestines while rigid endoscopes can be used to examine joints.
Endoscopy procedures have not only given doctors advanced tools, but greatly improved both outcomes and the quality of life for people seeking a diagnosis.
Who can have an endoscopy?
Endoscopy procedures are performed on those who have conditions in parts of the body that are difficult to diagnose without surgery. Common reasons for an endoscopy include screening for cancer or obstructions in the digestive tract or vascular system.
Some of the reasons doctors recommend an endoscopic procedure include:
- To perform a biopsy or screen for cancer
- To locate the cause of bleeding or pain in the abdomen
- To monitor the progress of treatments in the gastrointestinal or vascular systems
What does an endoscopy diagnose?
Although a doctor may recommend an endoscopy, the specific type of endoscopic procedure will depend on its goal. These procedures are frequently named based on the organ or area of the body the endoscope will be used to examine:
- Arthroscopy: A tiny endoscope is inserted through a small incision over a joint to examine the joint and surrounding area.
- Colonoscopy: A flexible endoscope is inserted through the anus to examine the bowels and large intestine.
- Cystoscopy: A small, flexible endoscope is inserted through the urethra to examine the inside of the bladder.
- Gastroscopy: A flexible endoscope is inserted through the mouth to examine the stomach and duodenum (the upper portion of the small intestine).
- Thoracoscopy: A small, flexible endoscope is inserted through a small surgical opening in the chest to examine the membranes covering the lungs and heart called the pleura.
There is a spectrum of other minimally invasive procedures used to diagnose and screen for disorders within the body. As technology advances, medical researchers continue to refine and develop new uses for endoscopic instruments.
What are the risks of an endoscopy?
Endoscopic procedures are very safe, but complications can arise. In cases where insertion requires an incision, bleeding and infection are possible. Potentially negative interactions with anesthesia are also possible but rare. Occasionally, the instrument can also cause perforation of the lining of the gut wall or blood vessel that is being examined. These risks are greatly reduced by the skill and experience of your doctor and anesthesiologist.
Before your endoscopy
Before an endoscopy, make sure to follow the advice of your doctor to ensure that no complications arise and the procedure is successful.
In cases where the gastrointestinal tract is being examined, fasting for at least 8 hours before the procedure is typically required. Additionally, if the lower portion of the digestive tract is being examined, laxatives will be given beforehand to ensure the colon is clear of stool.
What to expect during your endoscopy
If receiving an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, you will lie on your side and the endoscope is inserted through the mouth and down the throat. This procedure typically takes around 15 minutes, depending on your condition and the area being examined.
In a lower gastrointestinal endoscopy, you will also be positioned on your left side and an endoscope is inserted through the anus. This procedure can be as short as 20 minutes, but can last longer depending on the cleanliness of the bowels and what procedures must be performed.
Endoscopies requiring an incision may be performed at a hospital or outpatient clinic, depending on the type of procedure. Some may require sedation or general anesthesia while others require only a local anesthetic.
Recovery and results for an endoscopy
Endoscopic procedures are typically either noninvasive or minimally invasive. This means recovery and healing times are much improved and overnight stays at the hospital aren't typically required.
Sedation is often used to help with discomfort during the procedure, so recovery includes the effects of sedation wearing off. In cases where the endoscope is inserted through an incision, there will be some pain from the incision, which will go away as it heals.
Why choose us for endoscopy
We are 1 of only 2 facilities in the Kansas City area to offer endoscopic ultrasound. This outpatient diagnostic procedure provides detailed images of the GI tract and surrounding organs, allowing doctors to make an accurate diagnosis.
We also use the EndoFlip® advanced imaging system to capture specialized measurements of the pressure and function of the esophagus. EndoFlip works in the lower esophageal sphincter to assess how well it is opening and closing. Following upper endoscopy, while the patient is still sedated, doctors introduce a tiny catheter and balloon to capture the measurements. This precise data helps distinguish between similar diseases that have different treatment approaches. We can determine a precise diagnosis and plan the most effective care.
Our health system is also the only facility in the Midwest to offer the innovative peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM) procedure, a minimally invasive and endoscopic option to treat achalasia. Additionally, we use radio frequency ablation to remove precancerous cells from the esophagus. The approach uses a heated probe to target and destroy abnormal tissue before cancer can develop. Treatment is personalized to each person, but may involve repeated visits every 4-6 weeks until the cells are eliminated.
Recognized among the nation’s best
U.S. News & World Report recognized our program as high performing in its 2021-22 Best Hospitals report. The honor places our care among the top 10% of GI and GI surgery programs evaluated. We are proud to provide you and your loved ones with nationally recognized care.