What is it?

Endoscopy is the use of cameras to relay images from inside the body.  The device used, known as an endoscope, is a long thin flexible tube with a camera at one end and a light source.

What does it involve?

Endoscopes are inserted in to the body via a natural opening such as the mouth, nose, or the anus. There are different types of endoscopy depending on the site and function of the procedure. For example, if the bowel is to be investigated, it is referred to as a colonoscopy; if the airways are to be examined, the procedure is referred to as a bronchoscopy.

Endoscopy can also be used for surgery, as in the case of laparoscopic surgery. In this situation, the laparoscope (a specific type of endoscope) is inserted through small incisions. Once inserted, the endoscope is able to send images from the inside of the subject’s body back to a TV screen.

What is it for?

Endoscopy is most commonly used to investigate symptoms and help to diagnose conditions relating to the digestive system, although it can be deployed to produce images and aid with many other parts of the body, including the respiratory system, the urinary tract, and the female reproductive system. An endoscope can also be used to assist with surgery.

An endoscopy is commonly used to investigate symptoms such as:

How can you prepare for it?

You may be required to avoid food and liquids for a period beforehand, depending on what type of endoscopy you are undergoing. In the case of a colonoscopy, you might be given laxatives to help you evacuate any stool beforehand. You may also be required to stop taking certain medication such as blood thinners to prevent excess bleeding from the procedure.

What does it feel like during the procedure?

The procedure usually only causes mild discomfort, although a local anaesthetic is also sometimes used. It is normally performed with the patient conscious, although sedatives can be deployed to help you relax. Antibiotics are sometimes used to reduce risk of infection. It is not usually painful, but it may feel uncomfortable. The procedure typically lasts between 15 and 45 minutes, which will depend on which endoscopic procedure is being done.

What would a “bad” result mean?

An endoscopy can be used to diagnose a wide range of conditions and the results are interpreted by a specialist.  Whether the results are good or bad clearly depends on what symptoms are being investigated and on which part of the body the endoscopy is being performed.