An endoscope is a thin, long, flexible tube that has a light source and a video camera at one end. Images of the inside of your body are relayed to a television screen. Endoscopes can be inserted into the body through a natural opening, such as through your throat or anus. Alternatively, it can be inserted through a small surgical cut made in the skin.
An endoscopy is usually carried out while a person is awake. It is not painful, but can be uncomfortable so a local anaesthetic or sedative (medication that has a calming effect) may be given to help you relax. The endoscope is carefully inserted into your body. Exactly where it enters your body will depend on the part of the body being examined.
An endoscopy can take 15-60 minutes to carry out, depending on what it’s being used for. It will usually be performed on an outpatient basis, which means you will not have to stay in hospital overnight.
Some of the most commonly used types of endoscopes include:
• Gastroscopes, used to examine the upper section of the digestive system
• Arthroscopes, used to examine the joints
• Hysteroscopes, used to examine the womb (uterus) in woman
• Cystoscopes, used to examine the bladder
Other types of endoscope include:
• Broncoscopes, used to examine your airways and lungs
• Colonoscopes, used to examine your large intestine (colon)
An endoscopy can be used to investigate if symptoms suggest there might be a problem. It can also be used to help perform some types of keyhole surgery (laparoscopic surgery).
What are the risks?
An endoscopy is usually safe and the risk of complications is low. Possible complications include:
• An infection in the part of the body the endoscope is used to examine
• Piercing or tearing (perforation) of an organ
• Excessive bleeding
Your consultant will explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.