An endoscopy involves examining the inside of a person's body using an endoscope. An endoscope is a medical device consisting of a long, thin, flexible (or rigid) tube which has a light and a video camera. Images of the inside of the patient's body can be seen on a screen.
The whole endoscopy is recorded so that doctors can check it again. Endoscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic medical procedure. It is used to examine the interior surfaces of an organ or tissue.
The endoscope can also be used for enabling biopsies and retrieving foreign objects.
When is an endoscopy used?
A specialist may use an endoscope for the following reasons:
Endoscopy to confirm a diagnosis
An endoscope helps a specialist examine the inside of a person's body. It can also be used to take samples of tissue for biopsy.
An endoscopy is often carried out to find out the degree of problems a known condition may have caused. The endoscopy, in these cases, may significantly contribute towards the doctor's decision on the best treatment for the patient.
The following conditions and illnesses are most commonly investigated or diagnosed with an endoscopy:
- Breathing disorders
- Chronic diarrhea
- Internal bleeding
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Stomach ulcers
- Urinary tract infections.
Endoscopes and biopsies
Endoscopies are commonly used for the diagnosis of cancer. They are used for biopsies - taking samples of tissue to find out whether it is cancerous. Thanks to an endoscope, biopsies of the intestines or lungs can be done without the need for major surgery. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy said in 2007 that colonoscopy is the most effective screening option for colorectal cancer.
Endoscope use in surgery
Some surgical procedures can be carried out with a modified endoscope, such as the removal of the gallbladder, tying and sealing the fallopian tubes, and taking out small tumors and foreign objects from the lungs or digestive system.
A study found that the removal through endoscopy of tumors that affect only the superficial layers of the esophagus can avoid complete extirpation of this part of the digestive tract.
A laparoscope is commonly used used for keyhole surgery or laparoscopic surgery.
A laparoscope is a type of endoscope which is used for keyhole surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery requires only a small incision and is commonly used today for appendectomies, hysterectomies, and prostatectomies. Patients lose much less blood during and after surgery and recover much faster, compared to other surgical procedures.
A study carried out by the 3M Infection Inspection Division found that 3 in every 20 endoscopes had unacceptable levels of "bio dirt".
Short history of endoscopy
Reports indicate that the first endoscope was devised in 1805. It consisted of a large tube and a candle. Because it was cumbersome and large it had very limited uses. Fiber optics, which appeared in the 1960s, was a major factor in the endoscopy revolution. With fiber optics it really became possible for the doctor to see and record the inside of the patient's body with a small and relatively painless device.
Endoscopy has many uses today
An endoscope can be fitted with surgical instruments; it can send pulses or heat and electricity and destroy small tumors or gallstones. Specialized endoscopes have their own names, such as:
- Bronchoscopes - they examine the air passages and the lungs.
- Colonoscopes - they examine the colon.
- Gastroscopes - they examine the small intestine, stomach and esophagus (throat).
- Arthroscopes - they examine the joints.
- Hysteroscopes - they examine a woman's uterus.
- Cystoscopes - they examine the urinary bladder.
Types of endoscopies
Here is a list of some types of endoscopies and their meanings:
- Amnioscopy - examination of the amniotic cavity and fetus.
- Arthroscopy - examination of the joints.
- Bronchoscopy - examination of the air passages and the lungs.
- Colonoscopy - examination of the colon.
- Colposcopy - examination of the cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva.
- Cystoscopy - examination of the urinary bladder.
- EGD (Esophageal Gastroduodenoscopy), also known as panendoscopy - examination of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
- ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography) - examination of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas.
- Fetoscopy - examination of the fetus.
- Laparoscopy - a small incision to examine the abdominal cavity.
- Laryngoscopy - examination of the back of the throat, including the voice box (larynx) and vocal cords.
- Proctoscopy - examination of the rectum and the end of the colon.
- Rhinoscopy - examination of the inside of the nose.
- Thoracoscopy - examination of the lungs or other structures in the chest cavity.
Endoscope the patient swallows - wireless capsule endoscopy
The patient swallows a capsule which wirelessly sends images of the inside of his/her stomach and digestive tract. Eventually the capsule will exit the patient when he/she has a bowel motion. Currently, capsule endoscopy is used to find out why a patient is bleeding in their digestive system, with no clear cause. It can also be used to diagnose GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
A study indicated that capsule endoscopy is effective in diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding and small bowel Crohn's disease in children. Another study showed how wireless capsule endoscopy is turning up Crohn's diseases diagnoses among patients whose illness had not been spotted for over a decade.
The capsule is about the size of a multi-vitamin and has a camera attached to it. As it moves through the digestive tract it takes pictures. The patient wears a small data recorder on his/her belt; this recorder receives the data from the capsule. The pictures are later downloaded and interpreted by a doctor.
Before swallowing the capsule the patient must have fasted overnight. The next day he/she will be fitted with the equipment, which includes a belt that contains a battery and a data recorder. Leads will be hooked up to the abdomen; this is painless and does not perforate the skin. As soon as the equipment is hooked up the patient swallows the capsule. Eight hours later he/she returns and the equipment is disconnected.
The main components of an endoscope
An endoscope consists of:
- A flexible or rigid tube.
- A light that illuminates what the doctor wants to examine. The light is delivered via an optical fiber system.
- A lens system that transmits an image to the viewer from the fiberscope.
- Another channel to allow the entry of medical instruments or manipulators.
On the next page we look at what happens during an endoscopy and the possible complications of endoscopies.