Everything you need to know about an endoscopy

All your questions about endoscopy answered.

An endoscopy is a common medical procedure used to examine your body from the inside with a tiny camera. This can help your doctor to investigate unusual symptoms and make a diagnosis, or help perform certain operations.

Why an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a very useful procedure for diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms such as: difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, persistent nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea or unexplained weight loss, an endoscopy is often the best way to investigate the cause1.

You may also need an endoscopy for some operations as it enables the surgeon to carry out surgical procedures with minimal damage to your body. A modified endoscope with tiny surgical instruments attached to them can be used to:

  • remove gallstones, kidney stones and bladder stones
  • remove small tumours and growths – both cancerous and benign
  • repair damaged joints
  • repair bleeding stomach ulcers
  • insert a stent into an area which is blocked or too narrow to function efficiently
  • tie and seal the fallopian tubes as part of female sterilisation1

An endoscopy procedure can also be used to carry out a biopsy, in which a small tissue sample is taken for analysis. A biopsy is a common diagnostic procedure for a wide range of conditions, including bowel cancer and stomach cancer1.

What happens during an endoscopy?

An endoscopy takes place in hospital. You will come in for the procedure and leave again quickly afterwards; you won’t need to stay overnight. Depending on which part of your body is being examined, you might need to avoid eating or drinking beforehand. You might also be given laxatives to clear your system1.

The endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light source on the end (as well as a surgical instrument, if you’re having an operation). Depending on which part of your body the doctor needs to look at, the endoscope might be inserted through your mouth or your back passage, or through a small incision in your skin. If necessary, you will have a local anaesthetic to numb one part of your body. You might also be offered a mild sedative to help you relax1.

An endoscopy isn’t painful but most people experience a little bit of discomfort similar to that of a sore throat or indigestion. It will last between 15 minutes and an hour1.

After the endoscopy

After an endoscopy procedure, you need to rest for about an hour to let the effect of any anaesthetic or sedative wear off. After that you will be free to go home; there’s no need to stay in hospital overnight. If you do decide to take a sedative, you will need to be taken home by a friend or relative – you shouldn’t drive for the rest of the day1.

Your doctor will advise you about when you can expect to hear any results from your endoscopy procedure. If necessary, you may be referred to a different specialist for ongoing diagnosis or treatment, such as cancer treatment.

Possible complications

Endoscopies are very safe procedures and the risk of any complications is very low. However, there is a chance that you will experience:

  • infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics
  • organ damage or excessive bleeding which may require surgery. 

Before you decide whether or not to have a sedative to help you relax during your endoscopy, your doctor will make you aware of the following potential but rare side effects:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure
  • breathing difficulties
  • infection caused by saliva falling into the lungs1.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 

or make an online enquiry.

Sources

1http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Endoscopy/pages/introduction.aspx

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