What is an Endoscopy?

What is an Endoscopy?


Endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure (can also be used for treatment) that allows your doctor to view the digestive/gastrointestinal tract using a sophisticated instrument called an endoscope.


An endoscope is a flexible instrument with advanced imaging capabilities and specialized features that can also be used for advanced therapeutic interventions. There are also various types of endoscopes, each with a unique design to enable viewing of different areas of the gastrointestinal tract.


Endoscopes are generally used for the assessment and examination of the digestive tract. Evolving from a rigid structure with very limited capabilities, they are made flexible with the ability to increase its magnification potential. Aside from that, they are categorized based on which parts the endoscopes are used for:

  • Gastroscopes – gastroscopes are endoscopes that are designed primarily for use in the upper part of the digestive tract (the esophagus, the stomach, and the duodenum), a procedure termed as gastroscopy. To know more about gastroscopy, click here to read our article on the subject.
  • Duodenoscopes – duodenoscopes are types of endoscopes that are mainly used for Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) – a diagnostic procedure used to check the condition of the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas.
  • Enteroscopes – these endoscopes are similarly designed to gastroscopes except that enteroscpes have a longer insertion tube to allow examination of the parts of the small intestine – the duodenum, the jejunum, and in rare cases, the ileum.
  • Colonoscopes – a colonoscope is an instrument designed to assess the entire colon (hence the term “colonoscopy” procedure) and in some cases, the terminal ileum.
  • Sigmoidoscopes – a sigmoidoscope is a relatively short endoscope designed to examine the distal part of the colon. Rigid versions of sigmoidoscopies are used mainly to evaluate a malignancy in the rectum and distal colon. It is also used to retrieve foreign-body material on these areas (rectum and distal colon). This procedure, involving the use of sigmoidoscope is called “sigmoidoscopy”.
  • Choledochoscopes – a choledochoscope is a miniature endoscope designed to examine the bile and pancreatic ducts.
  • Echoendoscopes – an echoendoscope is a type of an endoscope that is used to assess the layers of the gastrointestinal wall as well as extraluminal structures.


Generally, endoscopy is used to examine the gastrointestinal tract and find the reason behind signs and symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Black stools
  • Blood in stools
  • Blood in urine
  • Chest pain or heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Indigestion
  • Infections in the GI tract
  • Lumps or tumors in the abdomen
  • Passing of black stools
  • Prolonged nausea and vomiting
  • Suspected peptic ulcer
  • Unexplained weight loss

Additionally, this technique is used to take tissue samples (called endoscopic biopsy) which will be checked in the laboratory for further examination. This procedure also helps your doctor or surgeon to see inside the gastrointestinal tract during a surgical procedure (example: removing tumors or gallstones)


Endoscopies are generally safe. However, as with any medical or surgical procedure, there are potential risks involved.

Although rare, the risks are commonly associated with the procedure itself causing mechanical trauma to the gastrointestinal tract, and is also due to the administration of sedation medications or anesthesia. It may include any of the following:

  • Bleeding where the tissue sample or biopsy was taken (rare and usually heals on its own)
  • Infection because of the introduction of an endoscope (the body detects it as a foreign material)
  • Persistent pain in the area examined
  • Reaction to sedation or anesthesia
  • Redness or swelling in the entry site
  • Tear or injury on the lining of the GI tract

These risks depend on the location of the endoscopy and your specific condition.

If you have questions about any of the risks listed above, speak with your doctor and mention all of your concerns. Before undergoing endoscopy, you and your doctor should weigh these possible risks (which rarely occurs) against the benefits with having the procedure.


Your doctor will talk to you about the procedure few weeks to days before so you will have an idea and overview of why is it necessary. He/she will give you complete instructions on how to prepare for your endoscopy.

The instruction listed below may vary depending on the type of endoscopy that you will be having. Your doctor will clarify the specific details with you.

Typically, preparations may involve:

Not eating 12 hours before the procedure. Most types of endoscopy might require you to be on NPO (Nothing Per Orem) status which means nothing by mouth. NPO is a medical term for not eating solid foods usually up to 12 hours prior to the procedure.

Taking laxatives or getting enemas. You may be given enemas or requested to take laxatives the night before the procedure to clean the areas that need to be examined. Laxatives and enemas will clean the gastrointestinal tract to allow your doctor full and clear view during the procedure.

Physical examination and history taking. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and will also ask questions about medical history (if you have been hospitalized before or if you have other health concerns) including prior surgeries. Be sure to inform your doctor about any supplements, vitamins, herbal medications or any drugs you are taking and alert your doctor if you have any allergies. You might need to stop certain medications like anti-platelet or anticoagulant medications to prevent bleeding during the procedure.

Talking to someone about driving you home or accompanying you after the procedure. You may want to arrange a ride home and plan for someone else to accompany after endoscopy, especially if you are given a sedative or anesthesia. Any of these medications can make you feel drowsy, forgetful, and unfocused. The effects of the anesthesia or sedative may last for up to 24 hours after the procedure.


You will be requested to rest for up 2 hours until the effects of the sedative (or anesthesia) wears off. The healthcare staff will monitor your vital signs, and your blood glucose may also be checked as well if you have diabetes.

After 24 hours, you can expect a full recovery from any type of endoscopy. Remember to follow the discharge instructions set by your doctor.


Some of the procedures may cause you to feel uncomfortable for up to 24 hours. If any problems persist, such as sore throat (gastroscopy), worsening abdominal pain or chest pain, you should contact your doctor.


This article is just an overview about Endoscopy. It might help you get an idea about the procedure but we recommend that you book an appointment with one of our doctors at Dallas to help you make an informed decision about the procedure. Call Pine Creek Medical Center at 214-231-CARE (2273).


• “Endoscopic Imaging.” University of Cyprus Biomedical Imaging and Applied Optics, Web. <http://www.eng.ucy.ac.cy/cpitris/courses/ECE477/presentations/English/18.%20Endoscopy.pdf>.

• “GI Endoscopes.” Report on Emerging Technology. ASGE | American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy | ASGE, Web. <http://www.asge.org/docs/default-source/education/Technology_Reviews/doc-gi-endoscopes(1).pdf?sfvrsn=4>.

• Krans, Brian and Jacquelyn Cafasso. “Endoscopy: Uses, 13 Types, and More.” Healthline: Medical information and health advice you can trust. Healthline.com, Web. <http://www.healthline.com/health/endoscopy>.

• Norton, Ian and Michael Bourke. “Endoscopy Handbook.” GESA. Gastroenterological Society of Australia, Web. <http://cart.gesa.org.au/membes/files/Resources/Endoscopy_Handbook_amended_2nd_Edition_2016.pdf>.

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