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Key facts

  • Endoscopy is a procedure where your doctor passes a thin camera into your body. This allows your doctor to look at your organs to diagnose and treat some conditions.
  • There are many different types of endoscopy. Common types include gastroscopy, colonoscopy and laparoscopy.
  • The endoscope passes through a natural opening or through a small cut in your skin.
  • Endoscopy is usually performed under sedation or a general anaesthetic. You will need to arrange someone to take you home after the procedure.
  • Your doctor can give you more information about how to prepare for your procedure and what to expect afterwards.

What is an endoscopy?

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.

An endoscope is a thin, flexible, tube with a light and a camera at the tip. It is passed into your body through a natural opening, such as your mouth, or a small cut in your skin. Using endoscopy, the doctor can see images of your internal organs on a screen.

Types of endoscopy

There are many types of endoscopy that 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
  • arthroscopy – through your skin into your joint (such as your knee, shoulder, ankle or hip)
  • laparoscopy – through your skin to see inside your abdomen and pelvis

How do I prepare for an endoscopy?

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

You will need to avoid eating and drinking for several hours before an endoscopy. Your doctor will tell you how long you will need to fast before your procedure.

If you are having a colonoscopy, you will need to do a bowel preparation. Your doctor will give you detailed information about what you need to do.

What happens during an endoscopy?

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 and take good look at the part being examined. You might have a sample (biopsy) taken. You might have some diseased tissue removed. If the procedure involves any incisions (cuts), these will usually be closed with sutures (stitches).

What are the risks of an endoscopy?

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

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

What happens after my endoscopy procedure?

Your health team will monitor you in the recovery area until the effects of the anaesthetic or sedative have worn off. If you have pain, you may be given medicine for pain relief. If you have had sedation, you should arrange for someone to take you home after the procedure.

Your doctor may discuss your test results and make a follow-up appointment. You should visit your doctor immediately if you experience any serious side effects. These include fever, severe pain or bleeding, or if you are concerned.

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Last reviewed: July 2022

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