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Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a medical procedure used to observe organs and ailments within the body. This procedure is performed without the need of any major surgery.

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It is commonly used to examine the digestive tract, called as gastrointestinal endoscopy. This procedure has many advantages and thus performed with success for many procedures.

What is Gastrointestinal Endoscopy?

A long flexible tube is used to examine the digestive tract with the help of a camera attached to one end of the tube. This procedure is called as gastrointestinal endoscopy. The camera helps take pictures of the organs inside and projects them on the screen or monitor it is attached to.

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Upper endoscopy: The endoscope or the long tube is passed through the mouth. It goes through the throat, esophagus and helps the doctor take a look at the esophagus, stomach as well as a part of the small intestine. This process is called as upper endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy.

Colonoscopy (Lower endoscopy): A long flexible tube with the camera or endoscope attached at one end is inserted through the anus and rectum into colon. This process is called as colonoscopy. It helps in observation of the ulcers, mucus lining of intestine, bleeding in the colon, etc.

Why is Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Recommended?

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Gastrointestinal endoscopy is very useful to understand various ailments affecting the digestive system. The doctor recommends endoscopy for the following ailments:

  • Unusal pain in the stomach
  • Ulcers in the stomach
  • Problems swallowing
  • Unusual bleeding of the digestive tract
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Presence of polyps in colon

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At times, endoscopy helps carry out biopsies for detection of cancer. The procedure allows passing instruments that help take tissue samples of the organs like lungs and intestines. All this is done without having the patient to undergo any major surgery.

In some cases, doctors recommend endoscopy for carrying out certain surgeries. These are scar free surgeries also called as keyhole surgery. There is no need to open the patient's body and a small incision made on the patient's body helps in carrying out the surgery. These surgeries include the removal of appendicitis, gallbladder, small tumors or foreign objects swallowed by mistake. It also helps in repairing a tear in the intestines, tying and sealing of the Fallopian tubes as well as stopping internal bleeding.

Preparation Before the Surgery

There are a few instructions the doctor may ask the patient to follow before the procedure:

  • Patients who are taking blood-thinning drugs are supposed to stop taking them a few days before the procedure.
  • Blood thinners tend to cause more bleeding at the site of insertion of the endoscope. Thus, patients are advised to stop taking them for a few days.
  • In case of lower gastrointestinal endoscopy, the patient is asked to take a laxative. This helps clear the colon of stools.
  • Upper endoscopy requires the patient to fast for about 7 to 8 hours before the surgery.

How is Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Performed?

Gastrointestinal endoscopy is a safe and painless procedure. However, one may feel uncomfortable during the procedure. Thus, the doctor may offer local anesthesia or general sedations to the patient before the process starts. During upper endoscopy, the doctor may:

  • Spray a local anesthetic in the throat.
  • The patient is asked to lie down on the left side and the endoscope is passed through the mouth. The tube will not hamper the patients breathing in any way.
  • The camera will take shots of organs that will be projected on the screen.
  • Instruments that help take samples for biopsies as well as carrying out laparoscopic surgeries.

In case of lower gastrointestinal endoscopy, the patient is:

  • Offered sedatives, if required.
  • The tube is passed through the rectum and used to observe the large intestine.
  • The endoscope or tube is pushed as far as the colon according to the test to be carried out.
  • On the whole, the procedure just takes about 20 to 60 minutes for complete examination.

After the Procedure

After the procedure the paitent is asked to rest for about an hour. Overnight stay at the hospital is very rare. However, one should make sure they are accompanied with a family member or friend. This is because the patient may be a little in a daze due to the sedation. Do not drive after the procedure.

Are There Any Complications Related to Gastrointestinal Endoscopy?

There are less than 1% complications related to gastrointestinal endoscopy. Complications, if any that can occur include the following:

  • Sore throat for a few days due to insertion of the tube
  • Bleeding at the site of incision or biopsy
  • Infection at the site of insertion of the tube
  • Tear in the lining of the intestine
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthesia or sedatives used during the procedure
  • Swelling, pus or redness at the site of insertion of the tube

As you can see, gastrointestinal endoscopy is a simple, yet very useful procedure. Speak to your doctor regarding all the instructions you need to follow before and after the procedure.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta

Date last updated: February 2, 2015