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Endoscopic ultrasound

This test combines an ultrasound and endoscopy to look at your food pipe, stomach, pancreas and nearby lymph nodes.

An endoscopy is a test to look inside your body. Your doctor uses a long flexible tube (endoscope) with a tiny camera and light on the end. They put this into your mouth and down into your stomach. They attach an ultrasound probe to the endoscope. The probe uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of the inside of your body.

It can show the pancreas, bile duct and digestive tract. And nearby lymph nodes.

Why you might have it

You might have this test to find out if you have pancreatic cancer. Or you might have it to see how big the cancer is and whether it has spread.

Preparing for your test

You might have a blood test 2 days beforehand to check how well your blood clots.

Tell your doctor if you're taking medicine that changes how your blood clots. This includes:

  • aspirin
  • clopidogrel
  • arthritis medicines
  • warfarin

Your doctor tells you if you need to stop taking any other medicines.

You can't eat for 6 to 8 hours before the test but you might be able to drink sips of water up to 2 hours before your appointment. Your doctor or nurse gives you written instructions about this beforehand.

Talk to your doctor if not eating could be a problem for you. For example, if you have diabetes.

How you have it

Usually you have an endoscopy in hospital as an outpatient. A doctor or a specialist nurse (endoscopist) does the test. A nurse stays with you when you have it. The test usually takes less than 30 minutes.

When you arrive at the clinic, the staff might ask you to take your upper clothing off and put on a hospital gown. 

You might have the test while you're awake but you can choose to have a medicine to make you drowsy (a sedative).

Having the test

You lie down on the couch and have an injection of the sedative. It takes a few minutes for you to become sleepy.

Then the endoscopist passes the endoscope down your throat. They can attach an ultrasound probe. They can see if there is a tumour and measure it. Your endocscopist can also see how deep the tumour has grown into the tissues. They might also be able to see if the nearby lymph nodes are swollen (enlarged).

After your endoscopy

You need to rest for a while after the test.

You can't eat or drink for about an hour, until the local anaesthetic throat spray wears off. You might not remember much about the test if you have had a sedative drug.

You should be able to go home the same day. You can't drive or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having a sedative. You need someone to take you home from hospital and stay with you during this time.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor who arranged your endoscopy gives them to you. 

Waiting for results can make you anxious. You can ask your doctor or nurse how long it takes to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks

This is a very safe procedure but your nurse will tell you who to contact if you have any problems afterwards. Your doctors will make sure the benefits outweigh the possible risks.

Risks include:

  • bloating and discomfort lasting a few hours
  • a sore throat that can last for up to 24 hours - contact the hospital if you have severe pain in your throat, chest or tummy (abdomen)
  • fluid going into your lungs from your mouth - this is a small risk if you have a sedative but your nurse removes most of the secretions from your mouth during the test to reduce this risk
  • a reaction to the sedative causing breathing difficulties - your nurse checks your oxygen levels during the test and you'll have oxygen through a tube that fits into your nose (nasal cannulae)

Information and help