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A Guide to Types of Endoscopic Procedures and Endoscopy Equipment

Mark Silber

Last updated: October 28, 2016 3:00 pm

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In our modern age of medicine, patients are frequently given advice to undergo procedures about which they, as laypeople, know little or nothing at all. Such is the case with endoscopy, which WebMD defines as “a nonsurgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract.” 1

The following should help clarify the facts around the common yet mysterious set of procedures known as endoscopy.

What Is an Endoscopic Procedure?

An upper endoscopy is a procedure in which an endoscope – “a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it” 2 – is passed down the throat and into the esophagus.

A colonoscopy, by contrast, goes the opposite direction and is a procedure in which the endoscope is inserted in the rectum and into the large intestine (colon). According to Mount Sinai, “Endoscopy can be both diagnostic and therapeutic” 3 meaning it can both detect a disease such as cancer as well as be used in treatment.

What Are the Types of Endoscopy Procedures?

There are a number of procedures that fall into this category. Some types of endoscopy include:

  • Colonoscopy: This is an examination of the large intestine, often performed to check for polyps or colon cancer. 4
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound: This type of procedure is typically used to look at the esophagus, stomach and gastrointestinal tract. It can also be used to examine the lungs, liver, gallbladder and pancreas. 5
  • Upper Endoscopy: Also known as an esophago-gastro-duodenoscopy (EGD), this procedure allow for examination of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. 6
  • Endoscopic Mucosal Resection: EMR involves the removal of lesions from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The lesions may be benign or beginning to turn cancerous. 7
  • Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection: ESD is a procedure to remove certain kinds of gastrointestinal tumors. 8
  • Endoscopic Fistula Closure: This is a procedure for closing perforations in the GI tract. 9
  • Cholangioscopy: This procedure is typically used to treat bile duct stones. 10
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: This type of ablation procedure provides treatment for a condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus (BE). 11
  • Cholangioscopy: Medscape describes this as a procedure for “diagnostic evaluation and simultaneous therapeutic intervention of the bile ducts.” 12
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy: Per the National Institutes of Health, “Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is a test to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine.” 13
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: This procedure, also known as ERCP, is used to examine and treat problems with the bile or pancreatic ducts. 14

What Endoscopy Risks Should Patients Be Aware of?

Endoscopies or “minimally invasive” procedures have become quite popular, in part because of the perception that they are low risk. But that doesn’t mean they are pain-free nor are they by any means risk-free. 15

Endoscopic operations may last longer than traditional surgery and in some cases may be more difficult for the surgeon. 16 In fact, for elderly or frail patients, traditional surgery may be a safer option. 17

The bottom line is that just because endoscopic procedures are an option, that doesn’t mean they are the best option for every patient in every circumstance. 18 Check with your doctor to determine if they are the best procedures for you to undergo.

Can There Be Complications from Endoscopy? 

Yes, there are many potential complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, these complications are rare but they most certainly do exist.

First and foremost is bleeding. The likelihood of experiencing bleeding is increased if the endoscopic procedure involves removal of tissues, such as polyps.

Then there is risk of infection. Recently, some duodenoscopes used during ERCP procedures have spread infections between patients. Some of these infections have involved antibiotic-resistant bacteria or “superbugs,” causing death in some patients. In these cases, it appears that due to a design defect the device itself could not be cleaned appropriately to prevent such transference

Finally, there is the risk of tearing the gastrointestinal tract. This risk is quite rare, but tears do occur. 19

  1. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-endoscopy  

  2. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-endoscopy 

  3. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures  

  4. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/colonoscopy  

  5. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/endoscopic-ultrasound-eus 

  6. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/egd-or-upper-endoscopy  

  7. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/endoscopic-mucosal-resection-emr 

  8. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/endoscopic-submucosal-dissection-esd 

  9. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/endoscopic-fistula-closure 

  10. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/cholangioscopy 

  11. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/digestive-disease/endoscopy-suite/types-of-endoscopy-procedures/radiofrequency-ablation  

  12. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1891395-overview  

  13. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003888.htm 

  14. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/diagnostic-tests/ercp/Pages/diagnostic-test.aspx 

  15. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/8-questions-ask-doctor-endoscopic-surgery  

  16. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/8-questions-ask-doctor-endoscopic-surgery  

  17. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/8-questions-ask-doctor-endoscopic-surgery  

  18. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/8-questions-ask-doctor-endoscopic-surgery  

  19. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/basics/risks/prc-20020363