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Endoscopy

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This page is about having an endoscopy, which is a test that looks at the inside of your digestive system. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a test that looks inside the body using a long flexible tube called an endoscope. It has a tiny camera and light on the end. Endoscopies most commonly look at the inside of the

  • Food pipe (oesophagus)
  • Stomach
  • Duodenum – the first part of the small bowel that attaches to the stomach

A doctor or specialist nurse looks down the endoscope to check for any growths or abnormal looking areas. They can also take samples (biopsies) of any abnormal looking tissues.

Having the test

You usually have an endoscopy as an outpatient. You should not eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours beforehand.

You lie on a couch. To make it easier to swallow the tube the doctor or nurse either sprays your throat to numb it or gives you a medicine to make you drowsy (a sedative). The doctor or nurse endoscopist then passes the endoscope tube down your throat.

When the test is over you will need to rest for a while. If you have a sedative you may need to stay in hospital overnight. If you don’t stay in overnight you will need someone to take you home.

The results

It may be a couple of weeks before you get the results. Contact your doctor if you have not heard anything after this time.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guide for this page about endoscopy.

 

 

What an endoscopy is

An endoscopy is a test that looks inside the body. The endoscope is a long flexible tube which has a tiny camera and light on the end of it. There are many types of endoscopes and the doctor uses these to look inside different parts of the body. The name of the test you have will depend on which part of the body the doctor is looking at. The diagram shows an endoscopy looking at the food pipe (oesophagus) and stomach.

 

Why you may have an endoscopy

You are most likely to have an endoscopy to look at the inside of your

  • Food pipe (oesophagus)
  • Stomach
  • Duodenum – the first part of the small bowel that attaches to the stomach
  • Large bowel (colon)

This test can show what is wrong if you have abnormal bleeding, indigestion or difficulty swallowing. A doctor or specialist nurse can look down the endoscope and see if there are any growths or other abnormal looking areas. Through the endoscope, the doctor or nurse can also take samples (biopsies) of any abnormal looking tissues.

Other types of endoscopy include

  • Bronchoscopy to look inside your windpipe (trachea) and bronchi (tubes going into lungs)
  • Cystoscopy to look inside your bladder
  • Hysteroscopy to look inside your womb
  • Sigmoidoscopy to look inside your lower bowel  

Below is information about having an endoscopy of the gullet, stomach or small bowel (duodenum).There is detailed information about having a colonoscopy (an endoscopy of the bowel) in the bowel cancer section.

 

Having an endoscopy

About 2 days before the endoscopy you usually have a blood test to check how well your blood clots. If you are taking any medicines that change how your blood clots, it is very important to let your doctor know. These medicines include aspirin, arthritis medicines, warfarin (Coumadin).

Below is an animation showing you what happens when you have an endoscopy to look for changes in your foodpipe, stomach or small bowel.

View a transcript of the video showing you what happens when you have a an endoscopy. (Opens in a new window)

You can have an endoscopy as an outpatient. A nurse will be there to support you throughout the procedure. Most people have a choice between having the test while they are awake, or after having a medicine to make them drowsy (a sedative). Your hospital may not be happy for you to have a sedative if you live alone and have no one to look after you when you go home. If you live alone but really want sedation, your hospital may allow you to stay overnight.

If you don't have a sedative, you will have a spray to numb the back of your throat and make it easier for you to swallow the endoscopy tube.

If you would prefer to be asleep during the test, you will have an injection to make you very drowsy just before the test. You will need to take someone with you to the hospital appointment. You won't be able to drive for the rest of the day and should have someone to go home with you.

You can't eat or drink for about 6 to 8 hours before the test so that your stomach and duodenum are empty. Your doctor or nurse will give you written instructions about this beforehand, or they may arrive with your appointment letter. When you get to the clinic, you may be asked to take your upper clothing off and put on a hospital gown. Once you are ready, you get onto the bed or X-ray couch. When you are lying comfortably you have the sedative injection to make you very drowsy. Or your doctor or nurse will spray the back of your throat to numb it.

Once the sedative or throat spray has worked, the doctor or nurse endoscopist will pass the endoscope tube down your throat to the area they want to look at. They will ask you to swallow as the tube goes down, but if you've had a sedative, you won't remember that afterwards. If there are any abnormal areas, the doctor or nurse will take pieces of tissue (biopsies) from them to send to the laboratory for examination under a microscope.

When the test is over you will need to rest for a while. If you've had a sedative, you may not remember much (if anything) about the test once you have come round. You should be able to go home the same day.

 

Endoscopic ultrasound

Sometimes an ultrasound probe is attached to the endoscope tube. This is called an endoscopic ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the area. This test is used to look at the wall of the oesophagus, stomach, or the gallbladder and bile duct. It may help the doctors to get a better idea of the size of a tumour and how deep it has grown into the body tissues. They may also be able to see whether nearby lymph nodes are enlarged.

 

The results

It can take time for test results to come through especially after a biopsy. How long will depend on why you are having the test but it may be a couple of weeks. Usually, the doctor or nurse who carries out the endoscopy dictates a report straight way. The report is typed up and sent to your specialist, who gives the results to you. If your GP has sent you for the test, the results will be sent directly to the GP surgery.

Understandably, waiting for results can make you anxious. Try to remember to ask your doctor or nurse how long you should expect to wait for the results when you are first asked to go for the test. If it is not an emergency, and you have not heard a couple of weeks after your test, ring your GP's secretary to check if the results are back.

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Updated: 21 August 2013