"Endo" means inside, and "scope" means look. So an endoscope is an instrument doctors use to look inside your body. Endoscopes can also be used to do tests and treat diseases.
Endoscopes are tubes that have a light and a small video camera on the end. The scopes are hollow. Doctors can thread instruments through them to do tests and treat problems.
Endoscopes can be:
Different sizes of endoscopes are used for different parts of the body. The size your doctor uses depends on what part of your body needs to be examined and treated. For example, they can be:
Short and narrow: For your nose and back of your throat (nasopharyngolaryngoscopy)
Long and narrow: For the breathing passages in your lungs (bronchoscopy)
Short and wider: For the lower part of your large intestine (sigmoidoscopy)
Long and wider: For your stomach (upper endoscopy) and intestines (colonoscopy)
Endoscopy is really any test in which doctors use a viewing tube to get a close-up view of the inside of your body. However, most of the time when doctors say "endoscopy," they mean looking in your digestive tract (GI tract) with a flexible endoscope.
Doctors do two main types of GI endoscopy:
Sigmoidoscopy is a type of lower GI endoscopy in which the doctor uses a short tube and looks at only the lower portion of your large intestine.
Viewing the Digestive Tract with an Endoscope
Doctors do GI endoscopy to find and often treat problems in your esophagus, stomach, intestine, and rectum. Even if you're not having symptoms, doctors may do endoscopy to screen for serious problems like colon cancer, which can be treated if found.
Doctors can use endoscopy to:
Some procedures doctors can do through an endoscope include:
Snipping out a small piece of tissue to test it (biopsy)
Removing a growth, such as a polyp in your large intestine
Injecting a drug, for example, a drug that stops bleeding from an ulcer
Stopping bleeding with lasers, heat, or electricity
You'll have only liquids the day before the test, no solid food
You'll have to stop eating and drinking the night before the test—your doctor will tell you exactly when
Your doctor will tell you whether you may take some of your regular medicines the morning of the test
You'll take medicines to get all the stool (poop) out of your intestines the day before the test—the medicine may be pills, liquids you drink, or liquid you put up your butt (an enema)
During your upper endoscopy or colonoscopy, you lie down and have instruments attached to your body to measure your blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen level in your blood during the test.
Your doctor will gently thread the tube into your body.
Your doctor will be able to see problems such as:
The lining and inner layers of your digestive system (except for the lower part of your anus) don't have nerves that feel pain, so you won't feel pain even if you're not asleep during these tests.
Endoscopy takes about 15 to 30 minutes. After you wake up and feel normal, you'll be able to go home with a friend or family member and rest until the following day.
Endoscopy is usually very safe. Problems are rare but can include:
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms after endoscopy: