Endoscopy: Why, How and the possible side effects


You must have often heard of the tern endoscopy as part of a diagnostic procedure. It is a non-surgical procedure where a tube along with a camera and light attached is inserted and allows the doctor to study the esophagus, the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. This is known as an upper endoscopy. Similarly, an endoscope can also be passed through the rectum into the large intestine. This is called sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.


Why and when will your doctor suggest an endoscopy?

Your doctor will recommend you going for an endoscopy to evaluate the following complaints:

  • Gastritis, ulcers
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Growth in the colon called polyps


Sometimes, the doctor also uses an endoscope to perform a biopsy to find the presence of a disease. While these are some test procedures, Endoscopy can be used for treatment purpose of the digestive tract too. If you are having bleeding from an ulcer, devices to stop bleeding can be passed through the endoscope. Polyps can also be removed from the colon to prevent colon cancer.


Possible side effects

There can be certain physical complications that you can expect post the test due to its invasive nature. You can have the following:

  • Abrasion in the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach or small intestine that can cause bleeding
  • Puncture in any of these parts that cause severe bleeding or life-threatening gastric fluid leaks that might require an emergency surgical repair
  • Reaction to sedation


Procedure of the test

In most cases, gastroenterologists assisted by a nurse will perform an endoscopy

  • It starts with a laxative that is administered to clear the colon a day before the procedure
  • In the procedure room, you’ll be injected IV sedation and a numbing medicine in your throat that will prevent gagging and discomfort
  • When inserting the endoscope through the mouth you will be asked to swallow a couple of times
  • The doctor injects a moderate amount of air into your abdomen for better visualization. This might make you feel full
  • For a biopsy, you will not feel any discomfort at all


What happens following procedure?

If the doctor gives you sedation, you will need some time to recover. Once you are awake and alert, you will be discharged. You can expect to feel somewhat groggy for many hours after the test before you get back to normal. You may also experience some kind of discomfort in your throat following the procedure which is normal. Drink soothing fluids and avoid spicy or hot food. These uncomfortable symptoms should subside in a day or two, but if it continues with additional symptoms like:

  • Swallowing in the back of the throat
  • Worse pain with trouble swallowing
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Blood with coughing, spitting, vomiting, and stool

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit a doctor immediately. 


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