Endoscopy means typically refers to looking inside the body for medical reasons using an endoscope, an instrument used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity of the body. Unlike most other medical imaging devices, endoscopes may be inserted directly into the organ.

Doctors will often recommend this procedure to evaluate difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, ulcers, polyps in the colon or bleeding, and changes in bowel habits. Sometimes it may be used to take a biopsy (removal of tissue) to examine for the presence of disease. Or, sometimes it can be used for the removal of polyps or involve devices that can be inserted through the endoscope to stop bleeding.

A Gastroenterologist will use an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera, where pictures of your digestive tract can be viewed on a color television monitor. The procedure can be undertaken by passing it through the mouth and throat to view the esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine, but it can also be performed by passing it into the colon through the rectum to obtain images of the large intestine.

Prior to the upper endoscopy procedure, you will fast for a six to eight hour period. For the colonoscopy, a laxative therapy is given on the day before you will have your procedure done, to make sure the area is cleared of stool.

Endoscopies involve a sedative to increase the comfort level. You will awaken from the procedure within an hour, but precautions must be taken to have a driver available for a 24 hour period due to lingering sedation effects.

Contact your family physician to talk further about the procedure and when it is appropriate to have a screening colonoscopy.