What is a Gastrointestinal Endoscopy?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2020
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Gastrointestinal endoscopy is an exam that helps physicians look at the lining of the digestive tract. It is used to help diagnose and treat diseases and conditions related to the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures include upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy, colonoscopy, and enteroscopy.

Endoscopes are flexible fiberoptic tubes that have a camera connected at the end. This allows physicians to take pictures and view the surrounding lining. Doctors may view images through a camera lens connected to the endoscopy or by watching live video on a television screen.

Various diseases and conditions can benefit from the use of gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures. This includes various types of cancer along the digestive tract. It is also used to find the source of bleeding along the gastrointestinal tract and confirm the presence of ulcers.

The procedure itself can be done while the patient is awake or under general anesthesia. This will depend on the exact type of endoscopy used and any contributing factors, such as illness. Some endoscopy procedures can be done on an outpatient basis. Preparation for the procedures often include restrictions on food, drink, and medication for specific time periods.


Upper endoscopy is used to look at the linings of the esophagus and stomach. It can help diagnose polyps and damage done by acid reflux. During the procedure, the endoscope is placed down the throat of the patient after the doctor administers a topical anesthetic to help numb the throat. Patients remain awake during the procedure, which lasts approximately ten to fifteen minutes.

Lower endoscopy is another type of gastrointestinal endoscopy. The approach is through the anus and the procedure is done while the patient is awake. In total, the procedure takes approximately twenty minutes.

Colonoscopy is another type of gastrointestinal endoscopy. This procedure requires specific preparation by the patient in advance of the procedure to help evacuate the contents of the colon. The procedure is useful in diagnosing an inflammation of the lining of the large intestine or colon. It can also allow physicians to visually locate any abnormal growths, such as fibroids, along the colon. In some cases, surgeons can also remove polyps and other abnormal growths during the procedure.

Enteroscopy is used to look at the small intestine. Possible reasons for a physician to request an enteroscopy is to look for sores or bleeding in the small bowel. It may also be used to confirm problems related to function of the small bowel during x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests.



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