What Is Endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a way of looking inside the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract using a flexible fibre-optic tube, called an endoscope.

An endoscope is passed through a natural body opening, e.g. mouth or anus to examine different parts of the digestive system. Small instruments can be inserted through an endoscope to obtain a sample of suspicious area if necessary.

How is Endoscopy Performed?

Depending on the organ examined, endoscopy carries a different name, such as gastroscopy, enteroscopy, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.

Gastroscopy is the procedure to examine the oesophagus (gullet or food-pipe), stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small bowel).

Enteroscopy is the procedure to examine the small intestine.

Sigmoidoscopy is the procedure to examine the rectum and left side of the colon.

Colonoscopy is the procedure to examine the rectum and the entire colon.

How to Prepare for Endoscopy

Endoscopy is done on empty stomach, therefore you are asked to not to eat or drink before the procedure. Before the colonoscopy, bowel cleansing is done to clear out the large intestine.

How Does the Endoscopy Feel

Just before the endoscopy you will be given a medicine to help you relax and possibly fall asleep. This is called sedation. With sedation, you should have little, if any, discomfort.

Why Endoscopy is Performed

There are many different reasons to perform an endoscopy. Endoscopy is generally performed for patients with the following complaints:

  • Persistent or recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Prolonged symptoms of indigestion, bloatedness, nausea, vomiting.
  • Severe or frequent heartburn or reflux. Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Vomiting blood, or coffee-ground materials.
  • Passing of black, or "tarry" stools. Anemia, loss of appetite or weight without known reason.
  • Change in bowel habits. Passing of stool with blood.
  • Screening for gastric and colon cancers and colon polyps.

The major risks are pain or bleeding when the polyp is removed during colonoscopy. There is also a small risk of perforation (tearing) of the tissue wall during endoscopy.

Reactions to the sedation can occur, although they are rare. For this reason your breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level will be monitored during the procedure.