Common Endoscopic Procedures
The most common endoscopic procedures include colonoscopy, upper GI endoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, and liver biopsy.
Most of these procedures include mild sedation. Your procedure could take anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the type. In order to feel most comfortable and informed about your procedure, make sure to talk to your doctor about potential risks and side effects.
A colonoscopy is a visual exam of your colon using a lighted, flexible fiberoptic or video endoscope. An endoscope is inserted through your anus and moved gently around the bends of your colon. Viewing the colon like this helps your doctor check for conditions like colon cancer, noncancerous tumors (which can be painlessly removed during the colonoscopy), inflammation, infection, and bleeding.
Upper GI Endoscopy
An upper GI endoscopy is a visual exam of your upper intestinal tract using a lighted, flexible fiberoptic or video endoscope. A spray or liquid is used to anesthetize your throat and the endoscope is then gently inserted into your upper esophagus. It's used to diagnose and treat ulcers, tumors, difficulty in swallowing, upper abdominal pain, indigestion, chronic inflammation, and intestinal bleeding.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to diagnose and treat rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, pain, colon cancer, and abnormalities that may appear on X-rays. An endoscope is used to perform a visual exam of the inside of your rectum and sigmoid colon (the last one to two feet of your colon). During the exam, you'll lie on your left side with your legs drawn up and a sheet placed over your lower body. A finger exam of your anus and rectum is performed, and then an endoscope is gently inserted into the rectum. The bowel is inflated with air to expand it and allow careful examination. The endoscope is then carefully moved around the various bends in the lower bowel.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography
Also known as ERCP, this procedure is used to diagnose disorders of the pancreas, bile duct, liver, and gallbladder. ERCP may help treat gallstones or other blockages, where stenting or sphincterotomy to open the bile duct is necessary. A local anesthetic is sprayed to numb your throat and an endoscope is gently inserted through your mouth and down your throat so your doctor can inspect your stomach and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A dye is injected into your duodenum and detailed X-rays are taken of the bile ducts and pancreas.
A liver biopsy is a procedure that allows the physician to obtain a small sample of liver tissue to view under a microscope to diagnose a condition. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and tissue, and a thin needle is inserted through the skin, usually through the lower-right chest between the ribs. The needle is quickly advanced into and out of the liver (it takes about one to two seconds) to obtain a piece of tissue.
Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a minimally invasive procedure to assess digestive (gastrointestinal) and lung diseases. It uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the lining and walls of your digestive tract and chest, nearby organs such as the pancreas and liver, and lymph nodes.