What is endoscopic therapy?

Endoscopic therapy is a general term for treatments performed using an endoscope. An endoscope is a small, tube-like instrument that is inserted into the body through a tiny incision or a body opening, such as the mouth. 

An endoscope has a lighted camera that transmits pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen viewed by the doctor. Doctors use an endoscope to examine and treat many conditions. The endoscope guides minimally invasive treatments that are performed using small instruments or medications. 

Common conditions treated by endoscope include peptic ulcer, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, colon polyps, and endometriosis.

Types of endoscopic therapy

Endoscopic therapy is used with the following procedures:

  • Arthroscopy treats joints and involves inserting an endoscope through a small incision near a joint.
  • Bronchoscopy treats the airways and lungs. It is performed by inserting an endoscope through the mouth or nose into the windpipe and lungs. Your doctor can take tissue or fluid samples for diagnosis, as well as remove inhaled foreign objects from the lungs.
  • Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy treat the large intestine. These procedures involve inserting an endoscope into the large intestine through the anus.
  • Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy treat the urethra, bladder and ureters of the urinary system. These procedures are performed by inserting an endoscope through the urethra and into the bladder and possibly the ureters.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreotography (ERCP) is an endoscopy performed through the mouth. The endoscope is passed into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. It treats gallstones and pancreatitis.
  • Laparoscopy treats the abdomen or pelvis. It involves inserting an endoscope through a small incision in the abdominal or pelvic area.
  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopic therapy treats the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. If only the esophagus is involved, it is called an esophagoscopy. If all of these organs are involved it is called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The procedure involves inserting an endoscope through the mouth into the esophagus and possibly the stomach and duodenum.

Other procedures that may be performed

Endoscopic therapy includes examining the body area and taking computerized pictures that are saved in your medical record. Your doctor may also perform a biopsy, which is the removal of a sample of tissue to be examined for disease or cancer.

Why is endoscopic therapy performed? 

Your doctor may recommend endoscopic therapy to treat the following diseases and conditions: 

  • Abdominal, gynecologic and pelvic organ conditions, such as hernia repair and removal of the appendix, gallbladder, spleen, uterine fibroids, endometrial tissue, ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, and abdominal or pelvic tumors or cancer
  • Joint and orthopedic conditions, such as repair of rotator cuff conditions; carpal tunnel syndrome; loose bone or cartilage; and torn or damaged cartilage, tendons, or ligaments
  • Lower gastrointestinal conditions, such as removal of colon polyps and treatment of bleeding from the colon
  • Lung and airway conditions, such as draining a lung abscess; placement of a stent to keep an airway open due to obstruction form a growing tumor; removal of a foreign object or excessive fluid or mucus in the airway; and opening of a narrowed airway
  • Upper gastrointestinal conditions, such as removal of polyps and foreign objects; widening of a narrowed esophagus; treatment of hypertensive lower esophageal sphincter, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal cancer; treatment of bleeding due to esophageal varices and peptic ulcers; and removal of gallstones
  • Urinary system conditions, such as the removal of kidney stones

Who performs endoscopic therapy?

Doctors who perform endoscopy therapy are specialized in a specific area of medicine and type of endoscopy procedure. They include: 

  • Critical care medicine doctors specialize in the diagnosis and management of life threatening conditions.
  • Gastroenterologists are internists or pediatricians who specialize in diseases of the digestive system.
  • General and pediatric surgeons specialize in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities affecting the abdomen, breasts, digestive tract, endocrine system and skin.
  • Obstetricians-gynecologists (Ob/Gyns) specialize in conditions and diseases of the female reproductive system.
  • Orthopedic surgeons specialize in diseases and conditions of the bones and joints.
  • Pulmonologists are internists or pediatricians who specialize in lung diseases.
  • Thoracic surgeons specialize in chest surgery. 
  • Urologists and pediatric urologists specialize in diseases of the urinary and reproductive systems.