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Fiberoptic endoscopy is an examination of the inside of a patient with the assistance of fiberoptic tubing to illuminate the area and take pictures for care providers to look at. In this procedure, the care provider inserts a tube with optical fiber into the patient to collect information. It can be enclosed inside a rigid or flexible endoscopy tube along with an instrument channel to introduce instruments, or it can be a standalone fiberscope that just allows the doctor to look inside the patient.
The development of endoscopy was a significant advance in medicine, and fiberoptics lends itself particularly well to this field. Optical fiber allows for the transmission of light along narrow wiring to reach the inside of a patient's body, and the return of an image from a simple cable mounted on another set of wires. In a fiberoptic endoscopy, the goal is to visualize the inside of the patient to look for any potential causes of a medical issue.
A very common application of this procedure is in treatment for head and neck conditions. The doctor can insert a fiberscope through a patient's nose to look at the inside of the nose and the back of the throat. This can be useful for diagnosing swallowing disorders and other issues of the head and neck. Fiberoptic endoscopy is available for evaluation of other medical conditions as well, using either a natural orifice like the mouth, or a surgically created one to gain access to locations like the inside of the abdomen.
Depending on the location a doctor needs to look at, a patient may need to be under anesthesia for a fiberoptic endoscopy. In less invasive procedures, people can be awake, with some local anesthetic to reduce irritation from the tubing, and a sedative to stay relaxed. In endoscopic evaluation of swallowing, for example, the patient remains alert and aware while the doctor looks into the throat to see why the patient is having difficulty swallowing or speaking.
Risks of fiberoptic endoscopy vary, depending on where the doctor works. The biggest concerns are infection from contaminated equipment or injuries to the patient's internal organs caused by failing to control the fiberscope appropriately. Doctors are careful throughout the procedure to minimize risks. After the procedure, patients may feel some tenderness in the area, and may receive mild pain management medication to help them through the first day or two of recovery.