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Maybe you have heard the word endoscopy once or twice in your life, but do you know what it means? 

If you were to get one, do you know what the doctor will do?

This article would explain everything you need to know about endoscopy – from the definition, types, and procedure.


What is Endoscopy?


Endoscopy is a non-surgical technique that examines the digestive tract of a person.

A doctor can view photographs of your digestive tract on a color TV monitor using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera connected to it. 

So, what exactly is an endoscope? 

An endoscope (also called a fibrescope) is a long, thin, and flexible tube with a light and video camera inserted into the body during an endoscopy to examine an internal organ or tissue in great detail. 

This tool allows a doctor to look inside a patient’s body without having to undergo significant surgery. 

An endoscope is usually placed through a natural orifice in the body, such as the mouth, urethra, or anus.



Why Do You Need an Endoscopy?

Now that we know the process of endoscopy, let’s discuss why you might need it.

Endoscopy is commonly used for the following purposes:

  • Investigation
    Determining the cause of any unusual symptoms one is experiencing.
  • Diagnosis confirmation
    Removing a small sample of tissue that can then be sent to a lab for further testing.
  • Treatment
    Assisting a doctor in seeing inside the body during a surgical procedure, such as repairing a stomach ulcer or removing gallstones or tumors.

Prior to your procedure, the doctor will assess your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and potentially request certain blood tests.

These tests will assist the doctor in gaining a better understanding of the cause of your symptoms.

These tests may also aid in determining whether the issues may be resolved without the use of endoscopy or surgery.

Simply put, endoscopy is used by doctors to diagnose disorders in the following body parts:

  • Oesophagus
  • Stomach
  • Colon
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Throat
  • Heart
  • Urinary tract
  • Joints
  • Abdomen 




Common Endoscopy Procedure Types


Colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor (typically a gastroenterologist) to look within the colon (large intestine or large bowel).

Upper GI endoscopy 
An upper GI endoscopy, often known as an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), is a treatment used to identify and treat disorders in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to view the inside of the abdomen (tummy) and pelvis without making extensive skin incisions.


A gastroscopy is a procedure to examine the oesophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine inside the body (duodenum). It can assist confirm or rule out medical disorders such as gastritis or peptic ulcers.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test that assesses the lower portion of the large intestine (colon). Irritated or swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer can all be seen using this procedure.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a treatment that combines upper GI endoscopy with x-rays to diagnose and treat disorders with the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas.

Capsule Endoscopy
Capsule endoscopy, also known as capsule enteroscopy or small bowel endoscopy, examines the center of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes sections of the small intestine, with a pill-sized camera that captures hundreds of images for a doctor to analyze.




Other Types

Bronchoscopy is a procedure that uses a narrow, illuminated tube (called a bronchoscope) to examine directly into the lungs’ airways.The bronchoscope is inserted into the patient’s nose or mouth. It makes its way down the windpipe (trachea) and enters the airways.

Cystoscopy is a procedure that uses a narrow camera called a cystoscope to view inside the bladder.  It is put into the urethra (the tube that transports urine out of the body) and passes into the bladder, allowing a doctor to examine the inside.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a minimally invasive method that can be used to diagnose digestive (GI) and lung problems.High-frequency sound waves are used by a special endoscope to provide comprehensive views of the lining and walls of your digestive tract and chest.

Hysteroscopy is a treatment that allows your doctor to examine the inside of your uterus to diagnose and treat irregular bleeding.

A hysteroscope, a thin, illuminated tube placed into the vaginal canal to inspect the cervix and the inside of the uterus, is used for this procedure.


Preparation and Procedure

Like any other medical procedure, endoscopies are frequently performed in hospitals.

Before having an endoscopy 

There is usually no preparation required prior to endoscopy, but your doctor will give you instructions on what to eat and drink before the procedure, as well as how to take your regular medications.

In most cases, you will be instructed to fast for hours before the surgery, depending on what area of your body is being examined.

If you need to have your large intestine or rectum and lower part of the bowel, you may be given a laxative to assist cleanse your bowels and have a low fibre diet a few days before the endoscopy.

Antibiotics may also be required in some circumstances to lower the risk of infection.

Another important thing to consider is telling your doctor everything about any serious health issues, such as heart or lung illness.

You must follow your doctor’s advice, because if you don’t, the treatment may have to be postponed.

During an endoscopy 

Although endoscopy is rarely painful, it can be unpleasant.

The majority of people have just minor discomfort, similar to that of indigestion or a sore throat.  

Endoscopy is normally performed while you are conscious.
During an upper endoscopy procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back or side on a table.

 A local anaesthetic (in the shape of a throat spray or lozenge) may be used to numb a specific area of your body.

You might also be given a sedative to help you rest and become less conscious of your surroundings.

 The endoscope will be inserted into your body with caution.

 Again, it depends on the part of the body being examined. It may be inserted into your mouth and down your throat, urethra, or anus.

 Depending on the purpose of the endoscopy, it can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. You can generally go home the same day and avoid spending the night in the hospital.

After an endoscopy

After the procedure, you will be examined and supervised by your doctor or a trained professional for an hour or until the majority of the drugs’ effects have gone off.

If you’ve had general anaesthesia, you’ll be observed for a longer period.

 If necessary, you will be given pain relief although there are some endoscopic procedures, such as ERCP, that may necessitate an overnight hospital stay to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Risks and Side Effects


The dangers of each type vary depending on the procedure’s location and your health.

Compared to open surgery, endoscopy offers a substantially lower risk of bleeding and infection.

Still, because endoscopy is a medical operation, there is a chance of bleeding, infection, and other risks like:

  • Chest pain
  • Organ damage, including probable perforation that usually necessitates surgery
  • Bleeding at the site of a biopsy or polyp excision
  • Fever
  • Persistent pain in the area of the endoscopy
  • Complications from pre-existing heart, lung, or liver disease
  • Irritation or redness and swelling at the incision site

Within 24 hours to a few days, most patients can resume routine activities.
However, if you feel any of these, talk to your doctor immediately.

Contact Dr. Deetlefs today for a consultation in Cape Town.




The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.