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An endoscopy is a type of invasive procedure that allows the doctor to get a first-hand view of the upper digestive system from inside. It is used to diagnose or treat certain conditions affecting digestive system.

The doctor inserts a flexible tube (called endoscope) into the mouth and carefully guides it down into the upper digestive organs. The tube has a light and a camera at the end of it that allows the doctor to examine the lining of the upper digestive tract from inside and see it on a monitor screen.

This test helps to diagnose different digestive disorders, but in some cases, it also used to treat certain conditions. The parts of the gastrointestinal tract that this procedure examines include the esophagus, stomach and top of the small intestine.

Endoscopy is considered very reliable to detect upper gastrointestinal conditions. The doctor may request an endoscopy test to diagnose or treat certain medical conditions.

For the diagnosis of the below symptoms or conditions:

  • Regular abdominal pain
  • Persistent heartburn
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) commonly referred as acid reflux
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Inflammation or swelling in upper gastro-intestinal tract
  • Bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Digestive system cancers or pre-cancerous abnormalities

During the endoscopy test, doctor may take a sample of small tissues (called as biopsy) from the suspected area for laboratory testing. The biopsy test can be carried out to diagnose cancer or even Helicobacter pylori infection.

Treatment:  Some conditions can be treated with an endoscopy, such as bleeding blood vessels, clipping off a polyp, widening the esophagus and removing a foreign object.

Since it is an invasive procedure, it is better for patient to inform the doctor about any other health problem that he/she may be suffering. In case, patient is carrier of an infectious agent (for. e.g Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV) there may be additional screening tests required before endoscopy is conducted.

Endoscopy is generally safe, but there are always risks that patient should be aware of, including:

  • Infection:  Since biopsies are usually taken during this procedure, there is a small risk for infection.
  • Bleeding:  There is a risk of bleeding, especially when a biopsy is taken.
  • Gastrointestinal tract tearing:   There is a chance that a tear can occur in any part of the upper digestive tract.

If a complication occurs, the following may occur after the endoscopy:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Dark or black colored stool
  • Persistent or severe abdominal pain

There are a few things that the patient should need to do before an endoscopy to ensure the procedure goes as smoothly as possible. These include:

  • Stop certain medications:   Medications that cause thinning of blood may increase the risk of bleeding. The doctor should be informed about those medications to assess whether those medications need to be stopped temporarily.
  • Fasting:  Since this requires going into the digestive tract, the patient will need to refrain from eating and drinking four to eight hours prior to the procedure.

Patient will lie down on a table and be hooked up to monitors that will keep an eye on the blood pressure, breathing and heart rate throughout the procedure. Most people also get a sedative (relaxing medicine) prior to the procedure so that they can relax and this is generally delivered via IV. The doctor will numb your throat by using sedative spray in the throat and then insert the flexible tube into the mouth, down the throat and into the patient’s stomach. The doctor will use the camera on the tube to look at the upper digestive tract.

In most cases, this procedure takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. The patient will spend a short while in recovery afterward and then patient can usually go home that day as long as no complications occur. Following the procedure, the patient can experience cramping, bloating, gas and sore throat. These are generally mild side effects and they are temporary.

Usually the doctor will go over the results with the patient and will let the patient know if any further treatment or diagnostic testing is necessary. If the doctor took a biopsy, the results can take up to a week to become available. Once the results are available, the doctor may want to see the patient again, especially if the results indicate the need for treatment or further diagnostic testing.

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