How an endoscopy is performed 

Most endoscopies are carried out at a local hospital, although some larger GP surgeries may offer the procedure.

Before having an endoscopy

Depending on what part of your body is being examined, you may be asked to avoid eating and drinking for several hours beforehand.

If you are having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, you may also be given a laxative to help clear stools from your bowels.

In some cases, you may also need antibiotics to reduce the risk of an infection.

If you are taking a medicine to thin your blood, such as warfarin or clopidogrel, you may be asked to stop taking it for a few days before having your endoscopy. This is to prevent excessive bleeding during the procedure. However, do not stop taking any prescribed medicine unless your GP or specialist advises you to do so.

The endoscopy procedure

An endoscopy is not usually painful, although it may feel uncomfortable.

Endoscopies do not usually require a general anaesthetic (with the exception of an arthroscopy). However, you may be given a local anaesthetic to numb a specific area of your body. This may be in the form of a spray or lozenge to numb your throat, for example.  

You may also be offered a sedative, which makes you feel more relaxed and less aware of what is going on around you.

The endoscope is carefully guided into your body. Exactly where it enters will depend on the part of your body being examined. This may include your:

  • throat
  • anus (the opening through which stools are passed out of the body)
  • urethra (the tube through which urine passes out of the body)

To perform keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), the endoscope is inserted into a small cut your surgeon makes in your skin.

Depending on the exact nature of the procedure and its objectives, an endoscopy can take anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes to carry out. It will usually be performed on an outpatient basis, which means you will not have to stay in hospital overnight.

Wireless capsule endoscopy

A wireless capsule endoscopy is a relatively new kind of endoscopy procedure. It involves swallowing a capsule that is able to wirelessly transmit images of the inside of your stomach and digestive system. The capsule is the size of a large pill and leaves your body naturally when you go to the toilet.

It's often used to investigate internal bleeding in the digestive system, when there is no obvious cause.

There are some complications associated with wireless capsule endoscopy. Swallowing the capsule can be difficult, as can passing it naturally. The capsule can also get caught in the narrow areas of your bowel, causing a blockage.

After an endoscopy

After having an endoscopy, you will probably need to rest for about an hour until the effects of the local anaesthetic and/or the sedative have worn off. If you choose to take a sedative, you will need to have a friend or relative take you home after the procedure.

If your bladder is being examined (cystoscopy), you may notice some blood in your urine, although this should pass within 24 hours of having the procedure. If you still have blood in your urine after these 24 hours have passed, contact your GP.

Page last reviewed: 29/07/2014

Next review due: 29/07/2016