Endoscopy as a nonsurgical examination is often a go-to test to image the inside of the digestive system. During the procedure, a doctor uses an instrument called an endoscope to examine the internal organs or vessels. While various branches of medicine use this examination, we will take a closer look at gastrointestinal endoscopy.
An endoscope passes through the mouth to the lower parts of the GI tract to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine called the duodenum. This procedure is an upper endoscopy or gastroscopy. We can also combine it with an ultrasound (and perform EUS) to obtain images from various parts. Imaging the whole small intestine with an endoscope is impossible, so capsule endoscopy is especially useful in this part of the tract. Endoscopes can pass through the rectum into the large intestine in procedures called sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. These procedures differ in how much of the colon is examined. Endoscopy also allows us to inspect the pancreas and gallbladder in a method called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or for short - ERCP.
Your doctor may advise you to undergo the examination if you are experiencing the symptoms from the indications list or in case of a colonoscopy if you belong to the screening group. The indications for the upper endoscopy include trouble with swallowing or unexplained weight loss. Belly pain, continuous vomiting for an unknown reason, or bleeding in the upper tract are also indicating the need for the test. Doctors use capsule endoscopy to find the cause of gastrointestinal bleeding, especially in the small intestine or diagnose inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn's. Similarly, as with previously mentioned tests, a colonoscopy may examine gastrointestinal bleeding, but from the large intestine. Other indications include a change in the rhythm and nature of bowel movements, unexplained belly pain, or suspicion of a tumor. The colonoscopy is also a screening test for patients over 50 years old or with medical history.
During an endoscopy, a physician may also obtain tissue samples or treat encountered abnormalities. Some endoscopy capsules can also take biopsies or even release medication at specific locations of the digestive tract. At times traditional endoscopy does not evoke pleasant associations in patients. But it is usually a safe procedure with a low risk of serious complications. The doctor will assess the risk for every patient and will take steps to prevent complications beforehand.