When is an endoscopy necessary?

Your primary care doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist if a digestive complication is suspected. The gastroenterologist may want to conduct a procedure called an endoscopy to diagnose possible conditions that affect the intestinal tract, stomach, colon, and other organs of the digestive tract. These conditions can be certain kinds of cancers, ulcers, biliary tract disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The gastroenterologist can employ various kinds of endoscopic procedures to perform a thorough examination of your digestive system, such as an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, colonoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound and enteroscopy, to name a few.

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy involves the insertion of a thin and flexible tube into the throat or rectum for a close inspection of the intestinal tract. The end of the endoscopic tube holds a light and a camera which allows the gastroenterologist to see the lining and find signs of bleeding, lesions, inflammation, ulcers, and other signs of damage to the stomach or intestinal lining on a monitor.

There are a few kinds of endoscopic procedures:

Upper endoscopy: During an upper endoscopy, one of the most common endoscopic procedures, the specialist inserts the endoscope through the mouth into the throat and then on beyond the oesophagus to view the stomach lining, the oesophageal lining, and the upper section of the intestinal tract.

Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy: An endoscope can be passed through the rectum to the colon to examine the colon and that section of the large intestine.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): ERCP is a special kind of endoscopy performed to capture images of the gallbladder, pancreas, and the surrounding areas and to perform biopsies and stent placements.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): This technique combines upper endoscopy and ultrasound techniques to capture images and gather information about different parts of the digestive tract.

A doctor will prescribe you an endoscopy to detect the following:

• The cause of stomach pain that is not easily diagnosed by a non-invasive physical examination.

• Ulcers, gastritis, inflammation or damage to the stomach or intestinal wall.

• An upper endoscopy can determine the cause of chest pain, heartburn, and problems related to swallowing food.

• Bleeding in any part of the digestive tract.

• Sudden and persistent changes in bowel habits (chronic constipation or diarrhoea)

• Polyps (benign and precancerous) or growths in the colon as well as cancerous tumours.

An endoscopy can be used for interventions

The following are medical interventions that can be accomplished with an endoscopy:

• Polyps or obstructions can be removed during an endoscopy. In the colon, the doctor can remove polyps with the scope to prevent the development of colon cancer.

• Your doctor may use an endoscope to take tissue samples (biopsy) to test for the presence of a disease.

• ERCP can be used to remove gallstones that have passed outside the gallbladder and into the bile duct.

• A stent can be inserted in restricted areas of the stomach, oesophagus, or the intestinal tract.

• Devices can be passed through the endoscope to arrest active bleeding from an ulcer.

When would you need this test?

Here are a few signs that you should see your gastroenterologist for an endoscopy:

• You are suffering from intense abdominal pain or have been diagnosed with chronic digestive issues.

• You have chronic heartburn or severe acid reflux

• You suspect that there is some sort of blockage in your intestinal tract, such as indicated by long-term constipation.

• You find blood in the stool.

• There is a history of colon cancer in your family.

• You are over the age of 50.

• You have a personal history of colon polyps.

Who conducts an endoscopy? Is it safe?

Nearly all endoscopy procedures are performed by gastroenterologists. A gastrointestinal surgeon may also perform many of these tests. A primary care doctor may also perform a colonoscopy in his or her office.

An endoscopy is a very safe procedure overall. However, there may be a few potential complications, such as:

• Tears in organ linings by the scope.

• An adverse reaction to sedation.

• Bleeding

• Infection

• Pancreatitis that may be caused by ERCP.

How should you prepare for an endoscopy?

Prior to an endoscopy, certain measures will either have to be taken by you or your doctor:

Preparing your gut: An upper endoscopy or ERCP seldom requires more from the patient besides fasting for 6-8 hours prior to the procedure for an upper GI tract inspection. A colonoscopy, however, requires the colon to be cleared of stool. The doctor may prescribe a laxative before the day of the procedure.

Sedation: A sedative is employed for most endoscopic procedures to make the procedure comfortable for the patient and to avoid gagging. The injected sedative induces relaxation and light sleep. Patients seldom have recollections of the procedure. Though most individuals undergoing the procedure wake up within an hour, the effects of the sedative may be prolonged, so it is not advisable to drive until the next day.

Anaesthesia: General anaesthesia that completely puts a patient to sleep for a longer period of time is only used in special circumstances, such as complex procedures or when very young children are to be tested.

Endoscopy is one of the most effective and safe tools available to detect many potentially dangerous intestinal conditions early. A colonoscopy can be used for early detection of colorectal cancer; polyps detected during a routine colonoscopy can be removed immediately. Individuals above the age of 50 are advised to get screened soon for cancer risks. If you have been prescribed an endoscopy or have experienced any of the symptoms discussed above, it is important that you do not delay the procedure any further. If you want to schedule an initial consultation for a gastrointestinal issue, book an appointment with our qualified team of gastroenterologists at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Sagar Hospitals.

Book an Appointment Book Tele-consultation