What are the risks and potential complications of an endoscopy?  

As with all surgeries, endoscopy involves risks and the possible complications. Complications are uncommon but may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during surgery or recovery.

General risks of endoscopy

Complications of endoscopy include:

  • Adverse reaction or problems related to sedation or medications, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Perforation or tear of the local tissue

Potential complications of specific endoscopy procedures

Potential complications are related to the type of endoscopy:

  • Arthroscopy can result in blood clots, severe swelling of the joint, and nerve or blood vessel damage.
  • Bronchoscopy can result in sore throat, hoarseness, fever, pneumonia, and pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
  • Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy can result in nausea, vomiting, rectal discomfort, bloating, puncture of the large intestine, bleeding, and dehydration due to taking enemas and laxatives before the procedure.
  • Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy can result in bloody urine and urinary tract infection.
  • Laparoscopy can result in blood vessel or organ damage, which may require further surgical repair.
  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy can result in puncture of the upper gastrointestinal tract, difficulty swallowing, bleeding, and sore throat.

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of some complications by following your treatment plan and: 

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your procedure and during your recovery
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, or increase in pain
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed 
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies

How do I prepare for my endoscopy?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your surgery can improve your comfort and outcome and help obtain the most accurate test results.

You can prepare for an endoscopy by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Following preoperative instructions, such as not eating or drinking before a procedure, or taking a laxative or enema as directed
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), certain vitamins, diabetes medications, and blood thinners. Your doctor will give you instructions for taking your specific medications and supplements.

Questions to ask your doctor

Having an endoscopy can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment.  Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before endoscopy and between appointments.  

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need an endoscopy? Are there any other options for diagnosing or treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home? Will I need a ride home?
  • How should I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When will I get the results of my test or tissue biopsy?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • When and how should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my endoscopy?

Knowing what to expect after an endoscopy can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the endoscopy?

What you experience after endoscopy will vary depending on the procedure, your health history, and other factors. 

You will have discomfort or pain after some procedures. Be assured that modern pain control methods are very effective. Your doctor will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes in any way because it may be a sign of a complication.