There are several types of endoscopy. Most involve having a thin tube with a tiny camera on the end passed through a natural opening in your body such as your nose, your mouth or your rectum, depending on which part of your body is being examined. The camera sends images to a screen so the doctor can get a closer look at the inside of your body.
What is it used for?
Endoscopy is used to look more closely at various organs and structures inside your body and to take a biopsy (tissue sample) so it can be looked at in a laboratory. The procedure can also be used to treat cancer and relieve symptoms.
The name of the endoscopy often shows which part of your body is being examined:
- bronchoscopy – lungs
- colonoscopy – large bowel/colon (PDF 105Kb)
- cystoscopy – bladder
- endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) – stomach, food pipe (oesophagus), chest lymph nodes, colon and bowel
- ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography) – liver, pancreas and bile ducts
- hysteroscopy – womb (uterus)
- PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography ) – bile ducts
- OGD (oesophagogastroduodenoscopy)/gastroscopy – upper part of your digestive system
- sigmoidoscopy – lower half of your large bowel
- video-capsule enteroscopy – digestive system.
Do I need to prepare?
You usually need to prepare for an endoscopy. This can include not eating and drinking for several hours before the test as well taking a laxative or using an enema. You may need to take antibiotics beforehand and stop taking certain medications such as blood-thinning drugs (warfarin).
A member of the team providing your care will give you more information about what to do.
What happens during the procedure?
The procedure usually takes between 10 and 60 minutes. You are usually awake. It is not painful but it can be uncomfortable so you may be given a local anaesthetic or a sedative to help you relax. Sometimes you will have a general anaesthetic and be asleep during the test.
The endoscope is carefully inserted into your body. Where it is put into your body depends on which area the doctor wants to examine.
You usually need to rest for about an hour afterwards, until the effect of the local anaesthetic and/or sedative has worn off. You will need to arrange transport home as you must not drive straight afterwards.
NHS Choices explains more about endoscopy.
Training the endoscopists of tomorrow
A national programme to train more healthcare workers in gastrointestinal endoscopy has launched at Guy’s and St Thomas’ to meet the growing demand for health professionals trained to carry out the examination.