An endoscopy is a procedure where the inside of your body is examined using an endoscope.
An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light source and a video camera at one end. Images of the inside of your body are relayed to a television screen.
Endoscopes can be inserted into the body through a natural opening, such as the mouth and down the throat, or through the anus (via the bottom).
Alternatively, an endoscope can be inserted through a small surgical cut made in the skin (known as keyhole surgery).
What happens during an endoscopy?
An endoscopy is normally carried out while a person is conscious. It is not usually painful, but can be uncomfortable, so a local anaesthetic or sedative (medication that has a calming effect) may be given to help you relax.
The endoscope is carefully inserted into your body. Exactly where it enters your body will depend on the part of the body being examined.
An endoscopy can take 60 minutes to carry out, depending on what it's being used for. It will usually be performed on an outpatient basis, which means you will not have to stay in hospital overnight.
Read more about how an endoscopy is performed.
An endoscopy is usually safe, and the risk of serious complications is low.
Possible complications of an endoscopy include an infection in the part of the body that the endoscope is used to examine, and excessive bleeding.
Read more about the risks of an endoscopy.
Types of endoscopes
Some of the most commonly used types of endoscopes include:
- colonoscopes – used to examine your large intestine (colon)
- gastroscopes – used to examine your oesophagus and stomach
- endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – used to check for gallstones
- broncoscopes – used to examine your lungs and airways
Other types of endoscope include:
An endoscopy can be used to investigate an area of the body if symptoms suggest there might be a problem. It can also be used to help perform some types of keyhole surgery (laparoscopy), such as removing the appendix or gallbladder.
Read more about when an endoscopy is used.
Is having an endoscopy painful?
In the majority of cases, no.
Most people will only experience some mild discomfort, similar to indigestion or having a sore throat.
The exception is keyhole surgery, such as a laparoscopy or an arthroscopy, which are performed under general anaesthetic (where you are asleep).
Discuss any concerns with staff at the hospital or clinic. They may recommend that you are sedated so you are more relaxed during the procedure.
Page last reviewed: 29/07/2014
Next review due: 29/07/2016