An endoscopy is a very common procedure that enables doctors to have a close look at the inside of the gastrointestinal tract via a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end (called an endoscope), inserted either via the throat or rectum, depending on the symptoms being investigated.
There are a number of reasons why an endoscopy might be required, such as persistent stomach pain, bleeding or vomiting, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and unexplained weight loss and chest pain, as well as digestive disturbances such as persistent diarrhoea or constipation.
For symptoms involving the oesophagus, stomach and upper digestive tract, the endoscope is inserted through the throat. This is done very gently and slowly by an experienced specialist and shouldn’t be painful. Sprays to numb the throat can help ensure the procedure is as comfortable as possible, and the specialist will talk you through the process. If you’re very anxious, sedation may sometimes be an option, although this isn’t always required.
Images from the endoscope are relayed simultaneously onto a screen, enabling the specialist to guide the camera and make assessments and identify any potential abnormalities. Sometimes, additional procedures and treatments can be carried out at the same time, such as taking tissue samples for lab testing (biopsies), repairing tears and ulcers, or removing small growths.