What is Endoscopy?
- Posted on- Dec 17, 2015
When looking at all the advancements in science and medicine, the procedures we are able to perform today are astounding. The manner and quality in which experts can gather information about the body or fix dysfunction would seem like science fiction a mere 50 years ago. Swallowing a camera that takes thousands of pictures of the small intestine so a doctor can watch them like a movie and diagnose a problem sounds more like an episode of a TV serial than an actual procedure. Some of the most helpful procedures, however, can seem more invasive than people are comfortable with. It seems the more a person ages, the more likely it is that a doctor needs to prod him. Endoscopies, for example, are very effective at helping a doctor diagnose or treat a problem in the body. Having a scope inserted through an orifice of the body, however, may not sound very appealing. Fortunately, the reality of the procedure is far better than the imagination might make it to be.
An endoscopy is when a medical professional inserts a long, thin tube into an orifice or incision in the body. The tube has a camera attached to the end of it. Typically, the procedure is used to examine the digestive system, lungs, or joints. An endoscope may also be used to treat a condition. For example, devices may be passed through the endoscope to stop bleeding in an ulcer. An endoscope may also be used to remove tissue for evaluation. Endoscopes vary, and in some cases, the procedure does not involve the insertion of a tube. The small intestines are better evaluated by capsule endoscopy - swallowing a capsule with a camera in it and passing it through the bowels. A virtual endoscopy also exists. This is an imaging test using a CT scan. Nothing is inserted into the body, but the fine detail isn't as good as a standard endoscopy. If anything abnormal is found, a standard endoscopy will still be necessary to remove tissue.
Reasons for needing an endoscopy vary. The procedure is most commonly recommended to evaluate unexplained stomach pain, difficulty swallowing, ulcers, digestive tract bleeding, growths in the colon, or changes in bowel habits. For digestive conditions, the endoscope may be inserted through the mouth and down the oesophagus, or through the rectum and into the colon, depending on where the client's symptoms are. An endoscope may also be used to evaluate the lungs, abdomen, or joints (inserted through an incision rather than an orifice).
The specialist or doctor performing the endoscopy will be able to best explain what to expect during the procedure, but general information can still alleviate some fears about the procedure. The patient is usually lying down for the procedure and attached to equipment that monitors vital signs (this is not painful.) Depending on which endoscopy is performed, the patient will receive a sedative or a numbing agent. The effects of the sedative commonly cause the patient to have little or no memory of the procedure. If performed correctly, the endoscopy itself is not painful in most procedures. The patient may feel discomfort throughout the day following the procedure, and if it's severe, the specialist may be able to prescribe something to ease the pain. For an upper endoscopy, the entire procedure can be completed within 5-20 minutes. A colonoscopy will likely take between 20 minutes and an hour. The patient will need a ride home afterwards because of the sedative. Complications are rare, and the few potential risks are: infection, reaction to sedation, bleeding, perforation, and in some cases, pancreatitis. Overall, it is a safe and common procedure.
Preparing for the procedure is painless, as well. Everywhere the camera is going needs to be cleared of food or waste. Before an upper endoscopy, the patient will likely have to fast for 6-8 hours. Before a colonoscopy, laxatives may also be prescribed to clear the colon of stool.
Without endoscopies, doctors and patients would have to resort to methods that are more invasive, less accurate and more time consuming. For the efficiency and effectiveness of the procedure, the side effects are minimal. Imagining the process taking place is far worse than the actual experience. Information about specific endoscopies is readily available. If you're concerned you may have a digestive issue that needs medical attention, consult your doctor immediately.