An endoscopy is a procedure where organs inside your body are looked at using an instrument called an endoscope.
is the insertion of a long, thin tube directly into the body to observe an internal organ or tissue in detail. It can also be used to carry out other tasks including imaging and minor surgery. Endoscopes are minimally invasive and can be inserted into the openings of the body such as the mouth or anus.
An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light and camera at one end. Images of the inside of your body are shown on a television screen.
Endoscopes can be put into the body through the mouth and down the throat, or through the bottom.
When an endoscopy is used:
An endoscopy can be used to:
- Investigate unusual symptoms
- Help perform certain types of surgery
An endoscope can also be used to remove a small sample of tissue to be looked at more closely. This is called a biopsy.
An endoscopy might be recommended to investigate many symptoms, including:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Tummy pain that does not go away or keeps coming back
- Having diarrhoea, or feeling or being sick often
- Losing weight without trying (unintentional weight loss)
- Having heartburn or indigestion often
- Blood in your poo
If the food pipe (oesophagus), stomach, or top part of the small intestine need to be looked at, it’s known as a gastroscopy.
If the bowel needs to be looked at, it’s known as a colonoscopy.
What happens during an endoscopy
Before having an endoscopy
Depending on what part of your body is being looked at, you will probably be asked to avoid eating and drinking for several hours before you have an endoscopy.
You may be given a laxative to help clear your bowels if you’re having a colonoscopy to examine the large intestine, or a sigmoidoscopy to examine the rectum and lower part of the bowel. You will usually also be asked to eat a low-fibre diet in the days before you have a colonoscopy.
In some cases, you may also need antibiotics to reduce the risk of an infection.
If you’re taking a medicine to thin your blood, such as warfarin or clopidogrel, you may need to stop taking it for a few days before having an endoscopy. This is to help prevent bleeding during the procedure.
However, do not stop taking any prescribed medicine unless a GP or specialist tells you to.
During an endoscopy procedure
An endoscopy is not usually painful, but it can be uncomfortable. Most people only have mild discomfort, similar to indigestion or a sore throat.
The procedure is usually done while you’re awake. You may be given a local anaesthetic to numb a specific area of your body. This may be in the form of a spray or lozenge to numb your throat, for example.
You may also be offered a sedative to help you relax and make you less aware of what’s going on around you.
The endoscope will be carefully put into your body. Depending on the part of your body being looked at, it may be put into your:
- Mouth and down your throat
- Bottom (anus)
An endoscopy usually takes between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on what it’s being used for. You can usually go home the same day and do not have to stay in hospital overnight.
After an endoscopy
If you have a sedative, you’ll probably need to rest for about 1 to 2 hours after having an endoscopy.
If you have a sedative, a friend or relative will also need to take you home after the procedure and stay with you for 24 hours.
If you do not have a sedative, you can go home soon after you have had an endoscopy.
An endoscopy is usually a safe procedure, and the risk of serious complications is very low.
Rare complications include:
- An infection in a part of the body the endoscope is used to examine – this may require treatment with antibiotics
- Piercing or tearing (perforation) of an organ, or bleeding – you may need surgery to repair any damage
Sedation is usually safe, but it can sometimes cause side effects, including:
- Feeling or being sick
- A bruise or burning sensation where the injection was given
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Breathing difficulties
When to seek medical help
See your doctor if you notice any signs of infection.
Signs of infection include:
- Redness, pain or swelling near where the endoscope was put in
- A discharge of fluid or pus near where the endoscope was put in
- A very high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery
Other signs of a possible complication after having an endoscopy include:
- Black or very dark-coloured poo
- Shortness of breath
- Very bad tummy pain, or tummy pain that does not go away or keeps coming back
- Vomiting blood
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
A gastroscopy is a procedure where a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is used to look inside the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
It’s also sometimes referred to as an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.
The endoscope has a light and a camera at one end. The camera sends images of the inside of your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum to a monitor.
Why a gastroscopy may be used
A gastroscopy can be used to:
- Investigate problems such as difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain
- Diagnose conditions such as stomach ulcers or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- Treat conditions such as bleeding ulcers, a blockage in the oesophagus, non-cancerous growths (polyps) or small cancerous tumours
A gastroscopy used to check symptoms or confirm a diagnosis is known as a diagnostic gastroscopy. A gastroscopy used to treat a condition is known as a therapeutic gastroscopy.
Read more about why a gastroscopy may be used.
The gastroscopy procedure
A gastroscopy often takes less than 15 minutes, although it may take longer if it’s being used to treat a condition.
It’s usually carried out as an outpatient procedure, which means you won’t have to spend the night in hospital.
Before the procedure, your throat will be numbed with a local anaesthetic spray. You can also choose to have a sedative, if you prefer. This means you will still be awake, but will be drowsy and have reduced awareness about what’s happening.
The doctor carrying out the procedure will place the endoscope in the back of your mouth and ask you to swallow the first part of the tube. It will then be guided down your oesophagus and into your stomach.
The procedure shouldn’t be painful, but it may be unpleasant or uncomfortable at times.
What are the risks?
A gastroscopy is a very safe procedure, but like all medical procedures it does carry a risk of complications.
Possible complications that can occur include:
- A reaction to the sedative, which can cause problems with your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure
- Internal bleeding
- Tearing (perforation) of the lining of your oesophagus, stomach or duodenum
What is a colonoscopy?
- A colonoscopy is a test to check inside your bowels.
- This test can help find what’s causing your bowel symptoms.
- A long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside it is passed into your bottom.
- You’ll be given a laxative so your bowels are empty for the test.
What happens during a colonoscopy?
A nurse explains what happens during a colonoscopy, a procedure to check inside the large bowel, colon and rectum.
You’re usually awake during a colonoscopy. You’ll be offered medicine to make you more comfortable and make the test easier.