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What is the Typical Procedure for an Endoscopy?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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A procedure for an endoscopy involves probing a person’s insides with the use of a long flexible tube, known as an endoscope, that has a tiny camera attached to it. The procedure is done on an out-patient basis and may examine various parts of the body, including the joints, gastrointestinal tract, or colon. The endoscope, which is about 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) wide, may be inserted through the anus, mouth, or a minute incision. Performed in a physician's office, clinic, or hospital while a patient is sedated, the procedure for an endoscopy typically takes less than hour. The endoscopy also allows the specialist to collect samples of any tissues that may warrant further examination.

An endoscopy may be performed for many reasons, which may include when a person experiences discomfort, bleeding, or trouble swallowing. The procedure may also be done to screen for cancer. Prior to the procedure for an endoscopy, a patient will be required to refrain from eating for eight hours, but may drink water and other clear liquids until two hours beforehand. The reason a patient must fast is because he will be given local or general anesthesia during the procedure for an endoscopy.

The sedative is inserted intravenously though the arm or hand. The patient’s vital signs, including blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, will be watched closely on a monitor. Typically the sedation allows the patient to not feel any pain during the procedure. Often the person will be so foggy during the procedure he will barely remember anything that happened.

During the endoscopy, the doctor will move the endoscope around a specific area. While moving the endoscope, electronic signals are then sent to a monitor allowing the doctor to view a person’s insides. The camera also allows the physician to take photos that can be examined later.

Equipment on the endoscope, such as forceps or swabs, allow the physician to collect any needed samples or to take out any growths discovered during the procedure. When the procedure is completed, the doctor slowly removes the flexible tube from the patient. After the procedure, the patient will be monitored for at least an hour until the anesthesia wears off. Once the medicine has worn off, the physician will give details about the test's findings. Lab results for any samples taken generally take a week to get back.

A patient who had an endoscopy performed will not be allowed to drive himself home or operate machinery for up to eight hours as medication given during the procedure may impair a patient’s judgment. After recovery, a person may resume his normal diet. While rare, complications of an endoscopy may include infection, abdominal or chest pain, vomiting, and trouble breathing. Bleeding also may occur, particularly if a patient had a biopsy performed.

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