What is an Endoscopic Ultrasound?

Nat Robinson
Nat Robinson
Endoscopy equipment.
Endoscopy equipment.

An endoscopic ultrasound is a type of diagnostic test that combines the use of medical ultrasonography and endoscopy. Doctors may conduct this particular ultrasound to find or stage a disease. The test is often used to examine the lungs and organs of the upper gastrointestinal tract such as the gallbladder, pancreas and liver. It may also be used to assess the intestines, rectum and additional organs of the lower gastrointestinal tract. In addition, tissue samples and fluids may be acquired with a needle under the guidance of an endoscopic ultrasound.

Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.
Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.

In general, the images provided by an endoscopic ultrasound are more precise and detailed than those provided by a traditional ultrasound. The reasons why a doctor may recommend this highly technical test can vary. It is commonly used to stage cancer of the gastrointestinal organs as well as the lungs. The test is so specialized that it can provide in-depth information about surrounding lymph nodes, which can indicate metastasis, or spreading of the disease. Additionally, it may be used to diagnose and monitor benign conditions of the gastrointestinal tract.

Most patients will be asked to fast before undergoing an endoscopic ultrasound. The fasting will generally start within six hours of having the test. Some patients may also be asked to take a laxative in preparation for the ultrasound. It will be imperative to enlighten the physician beforehand of any prescription medicines regularly being used. On the day of the test, most patients will be given a sedative to promote relaxation.

During an endoscopic ultrasound, an endoscope — a flexible thin tube — with an ultrasound attached to its tip will be used to carry out the internal examination. The entry point of the endoscope will greatly depend on the areas being studied. If the upper gastrointestinal tract is being analyzed, the endoscope is introduced through the mouth. For a lower gastrointestinal study, the tube will be advanced through the rectum. Once the endoscope reaches the chosen location, the ultrasound transducer sends out sound waves which will produce images onto a screen for viewing.

Patients will typically need to be driven home following the ultrasound, as many individuals will still be sleepy and dazed from the sedative. Doctors normally follow up with the ultrasound results as soon as they become available. The greatest complaint of an endoscopic ultrasound is generally a bloated abdomen which commonly occurs due to air introduced into the area during the test. Individuals who had an upper gastrointestinal examination may also have a sore throat. In the event that there is unexpected bleeding or abnormal pain, the patient should seek medical help.

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    • Endoscopy equipment.
      Endoscopy equipment.
    • Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.
      Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.