What is an Endoscopy?

Amanda Pressman, MD, FACG

An endoscopy is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist, a physician trained in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver.

Why endoscopy?

An endoscopy is recommended to diagnose a variety of complaints or conditions, including:

  • swallowing disorders
  • celiac disease
  • stomach infections such as H Pylori
  • stomach ulcers
  • inflammation (gastritis)
  • hiatal hernias
  • stomach or esophageal cancers
  • esophageal strictures
  • Barrett's esophagus
  • gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD)

The procedure

For the procedure, a patient is given medications for sedation, and then a small flexible tube (endoscope) with a light and camera are used to visualize the esophagus, stomach and portions of the small intestine.

The procedure is very safe.  The patient can breathe on their own and is usually unaware of the test as it is being performed due to the sedating medications. The whole procedure is short, often taking less than 10 minutes.

While endoscopy is used to diagnose conditions it also allows the physician to perform therapeutic interventions during the procedure, such as dilation, taking a biopsy, doing an injection, or attaching clips.

It’s important to note that if you are taking blood thinning medications, you should talk to your doctor to modify your medication prior to an endoscopy.

When to call a doctor

It is important that patients talk about symptoms with their gastroenterologist, so the correct test can be ordered.

There are some conditions that need urgent medical attention. Call your doctor right away to discuss your symptoms and the possibility of endoscopy if you:

  • are vomiting blood
  • experience new reflux symptoms or pain
  • have trouble swallowing
  • lose more than 10 pounds without dieting
  • have black or tarry stools

Other conditions that should be discussed with your doctor and may require an endoscopy include:

  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • anemia

Endoscopy is a useful test that can help diagnose and treat several conditions involving the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. For more information about the procedure and our expert team, visit our website.

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