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An endoscopy is a procedure that gives your doctor a direct view of your body’s internal organs. This can allow a diagnosis and treatment of some conditions.

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscope is a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera at the tip. It can be passed into your body. The doctor can see images of your internal organs on a screen.

Types of endoscopy

There are many types of endoscopy, which allow doctors to see different parts of the body, such as:

  • gastroscopy – through your mouth to see your stomach and oesophagus
  • colonoscopy – through your anus to see your large bowel
  • bronchoscopy – through your mouth to see your airways and lungs
  • cystoscopy – through your urethra to see your bladder
  • hysteroscopy – through your vagina and cervix to see your uterus
  • capsule endoscopy – you swallow a capsule that contains a small camera and light source, which wirelessly transmits images of the digestive system

Preparing for an endoscopy

An endoscopy is usually not painful, but you might need to have a light sedative or anaesthetic. Because of this, you should arrange for someone to help you get home afterwards if you can.

You will have to avoid eating and drinking before an endoscopy. Ask your doctor for more information about this.

If you are having a colonoscopy, you will need to do a bowel preparation. Your doctor will talk to you about about this.

During an endoscopy procedure

Before it starts, you might be given either local or general anaesthetic or a sedative to help you relax. You might or might not know what’s going on at the time, and you probably won’t remember much.

The doctor will carefully insert the endoscope. He or she will have a good look at the part being examined. You might have a sample (biopsy) taken. You might have some diseased tissue removed.

Risks of an endoscopy

Every medical procedure has some risks. Endoscopies are generally pretty safe, but there is always a risk of:

  • bleeding
  • adverse reaction to sedation
  • infections
  • a tear or hole in the area being examined, such as puncturing an organ

After an endoscopy

You will be monitored in the recovery area until the effects of the anaesthetic or sedative have worn off. You might be given pain relief medication. You should have help to get home, if at all possible. You should be fully recovered by the next day.

Your doctor may discuss your test results and make a follow-up appointment. But you should visit your doctor immediately if you experience any serious side effects.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2020

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