Catherine Spader, RN

What is an endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a general term for a medical procedure that uses an endoscope. An endoscope is a small, tube-like instrument that is inserted into the body through a tiny incision or a body opening. It has a lighted camera that sends pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen. Doctors use endoscopic therapy to diagnose and treat many conditions. Common examples include peptic ulcers, appendicitis, colon polyps, and endometriosis. 

Endoscopic procedures are minimally invasive procedures because the endoscope is inserted into the body through a small incision or an opening in the body, such as the mouth or anus. You may have other options to diagnose or treat your condition. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having an endoscopy.

Types of endoscopy

The types of endoscopy procedures include:

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  • Arthroscopy examines and treats the joints. It involves inserting an endoscope through a small incision near a joint.

  • Bronchoscopy examines and treats the airways and lungs. It involves inserting an endoscope through the mouth or nose into the windpipe and lungs.

  • Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy examine and treat the large intestine. These procedures involve inserting an endoscope into the large intestine through the anus.

  • Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy examine and treat the urethra, bladder and ureters of the urinary system. These procedures involve inserting an endoscope through the urethra and into the bladder and possibly the ureters.

  • Laparoscopy examines and treats the abdomen or pelvis. It involves inserting an endoscope through a small incision in the abdominal or pelvic area.

  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy examines and 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 is performed by inserting an endoscope through the mouth into the esophagus and possibly the stomach and duodenum.

Why is an endoscopy performed? 

Your doctor may recommend endoscopy to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions. A common reason to have an endoscopy is to take a tissue biopsy. A biopsy involves removing samples of tissues to examine for disease or malignancy.

Other reasons for endoscopy include:

  • Abdominal, gynecologic and pelvic organ conditions, such as abdominal pain, hernias, appendicitis, infertility, gallbladder disease, spleen trauma, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, and abdominal or pelvic tumors or cancer.

  • Joint and orthopedic conditions, such as acute or chronic joint injuries and pain, joint inflammation, torn cartilage or ligaments, rotator cuff conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic dislocations, and loose bone or cartilage.

  • Lower gastrointestinal conditions, such as anemia, lower abdominal pain, colon polyps, colorectal cancer screening, rectal bleeding or bloody stools, and intestinal diseases, such as diverticulosis and diverticulitis (intestinal pockets that can develop over time and become infected).

  • Lung and airway conditions, such as lung abscess, lung cancer or tumor, coughing up blood, foreign object, fluid or substance in the airway, airway infections, chronic cough, atelectasis (lung collapse), and interstitial lung disease (inflammation of deep lung tissues).

  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, such as upper abdominal pain, vomiting blood, difficulty swallowing, gastric reflux, anemia, tumors, polyps, foreign objects, esophageal varices, esophageal cancer, and peptic ulcers.

  • Urinary system conditions, such as kidney stones, pelvic pain, enlarged prostate, urethral stricture, abnormal cells in urine, frequent urinary tract infections, and painful, frequent, or bloody urination.

Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on an endoscopy.

Who performs an endoscopy?

Doctors and surgeons who perform endoscopies 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 o