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Endoscopic ultrasound

4-minute read

What is an endoscopic ultrasound?

An endoscopic ultrasound is a procedure to look at the wall of your oesophagus (gullet), stomach and duodenum using a flexible telescope.

The telescope has an ultrasound scanner attached to it so the endoscopist (the person doing the endoscopic ultrasound) can scan structures beneath the lining of your intestines such as your bile ducts and pancreas.

Illustration showing an endoscopic ultrasound.
An endoscopic ultrasound.

What are the benefits of an endoscopic ultrasound?

You may already have had a test, such as an endoscopy or CT scan, that has shown that you have an abnormality. An endoscopic ultrasound can be used to get close-up scans to help your doctor to decide on the best treatment for you.

Are there any alternatives to an endoscopic ultrasound?

A CT scan can give some information about an abnormality. However, a scan is not as accurate and it is not possible to perform a biopsy so you may still need an endoscopic ultrasound.

What does the procedure involve?

An endoscopic ultrasound usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

The endoscopist may offer you a sedative or painkiller to help you to relax and feel more comfortable.

The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope (endoscope) into the back of your throat. From here the endoscope will pass into your duodenum.

The endoscopist will be able to look at the lining of these organs and, using the scanner, will be able to take ultrasound images of deeper tissue and other structures beneath the lining such as your bile ducts and pancreas.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

  • sore throat
  • allergic reaction
  • breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
  • rarely, a heart attack or stroke can happen if you have serious medical problems
  • damage to teeth or bridgework
  • making a hole in your oesophagus, stomach or duodenum
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • incomplete procedure
  • inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis)

How soon will I recover?

If you were given a sedative, you will be transferred to the recovery area where you can rest. You will usually recover in about an hour but this depends on how much sedative you were given.

You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.

You should be able to return to work the next day unless you are told otherwise.

The healthcare team will tell you what was found during the endoscopic ultrasound and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.


An endoscopic ultrasound is usually a safe and effective way of finding out more about a problem in the wall of your upper digestive system and in structures beneath the wall.


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Last reviewed: September 2023

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