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Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to look inside certain body cavities using an endoscope. An endoscope is a hollow, tube-like instrument with a lighted (fiberoptic) end.

There are many different kinds of endoscopy procedures:

Type of endoscopyArea of the body examined

arthroscopy

joints

trachea, bronchibronchiThe large tubes, or airways, that branch off from the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs, where they branch into smaller tubes (bronchioles) that end in the alveoli (air sacs). Bronchi carry air to and from the lungs. and certain bronchioles

large intestine or colon

colposcopycolposcopyA procedure that uses a colposcope (a lighted magnifying instrument) to examine the vulva, vagina and cervix.

cervix and vagina

cystoscopycystoscopyA procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat the bladder and urethra.

bladder and urethra

pancreas and bile ducts

esophagus, stomach and duodenumduodenumThe first part of the small intestine that receives partially digested food from the stomach, absorbs nutrients and passes digested food to the jejunum. The duodenum also receives digestive juices from the pancreas and bile (a yellow-green fluid that helps digest fat) from the liver and gallbladder.

hysteroscopyhysteroscopyA procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat the uterus (womb) and Fallopian tubes.

uterus

laparoscopylaparoscopyA procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat organs inside the abdomen and pelvis.

abdomen or pelvis

laryngoscopylaryngoscopyA procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat the larynx (voice box) and vocal cords.

voice box (larynx) and vocal cords

lymph nodes in the chest behind the breastbone (mediastinummediastinumThe space in the chest between the lungs, breastbone and spine that contains the heart, great blood vessels, thymus, trachea (windpipe), esophagus and lymph nodes.)

sigmoidoscopysigmoidoscopyA procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat sigmoid colon (the last part of the colon) and rectum.

lower rectumrectumThe lower part of the large intestine that receives waste (stool or feces) from the colon and stores it until it passes out of the body through the anus. and sigmoid colon

chest cavity (thoracic cavity)

Why endoscopy is done

An endoscopy may be done to:

  • allow the doctor to see inside organs or structures in the body
  • obtain tissue specimens for testing (biopsy)
  • remove small polyps or tumours in some cases
    • This is only done during certain endoscopy procedures.
  • determine the stage (how far cancer has spread and if it is present in other organs and tissues)

How endoscopy is done

Depending on the part of the body being examined, endoscopy may be done in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.

  • Preparation depends on the type of procedure being done and may include:
    • no special preparation
    • fasting overnight
    • taking laxatives, having an enema or both
  • Local or general anesthetic may be used.
  • Drugs to help a person relax during the procedure may be used.
  • Depending on the area of the body being viewed, the endoscope can be inserted through:
    • an anatomical opening, such as the mouth, anus or urethra
    • a small cut or incision
  • Instruments can be inserted through a channel in the endoscope to remove small pieces of tissue or an entire growth.
    • It may not be possible to remove large growths or tumours.
    • Special brushes, snares, forceps or laser beams may be used.
  • Cameras or videos can be attached to some endoscopes. They display images on a small monitor for the doctor to see.
  • Biopsy samples are sent to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope.
  • Care after the procedure depends on the type of endoscopy done.

Potential side effects

Serious problems from endoscopy are not common. Potential side effects may include:

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • tearing of the tissue wall
  • allergic reaction to anesthetic or sedation

What the results mean

Biopsy samples are examined to find out if they are cancerous or not.

What happens if a change or abnormality is found

The doctor will decide whether further tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment are needed.

Special considerations for children

Being prepared for a test or procedure can reduce anxiety, increase cooperation and help the child develop coping skills. Parents and caregivers can help prepare children by explaining to them what will happen, including what they will see, feel and hear during the test.

The preparation you can provide for this test depends on the age and experience of the child. See the following for more age-specific information on cope with tests and treatment.

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