What is Endoscopy?

By  , Expert Content
Jul 06, 2011

Endoscopy is a commonly performed medical procedure in which a tube-like instrument called an endoscope is used to examine inside the body. The endoscope is inserted into the body to for testing various medical parameters, and can help to diagnose the cause of your problem, find out the severity of condition and then plan treatment accordingly.

The first endoscope was devised in 1805. But as it was bulky and cumbersome, it had very limited use. Development of fibre optics in the 1960s gave it a major boost and created a revolution in endoscopy. Use of fibre optics made it possible for the doctor to see and record the inside of the patient's body with a small and relatively painless device.

The main parts of an endoscope are:

  • A flexible or rigid tube.
  • A source of light that illuminates and allows the doctor to examine (the light is delivered via an optical fibre system).
  • A lens system (it helps to transmit an image to the viewer via the fiberscope).
  • An additional channel which  can be used to insert medical instruments or manipulators.

The endoscope usually enters the body via the:

  • Anus.
  • Throat.
  • Urethra (urine exits the body through the urethra).
  • A small incision made in the skin.

There are many different kinds of endoscopes, or “scopes.” They are specially designed to look at a certain part of the body. Some of the commonly used scopes are arthroscope (to examine the joints), bronchoscope (used to examine air passages and the lungs), colonoscope (to examine the colon or large bowel), colposcope (helps to examine cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva), cystoscope (allows examination of the urinary bladder) and laparoscope ( used to examine the abdominal cavity).

Endoscopy is a safe procedure with low rate of complications (less than 1 in 100). It may be done to confirm the diagnosis if non-invasive tests such as MRI, X-ray, or CT scan are not helpful to establish the diagnosis.

Some conditions and illnesses for endoscopy may be used as diagnostic tool include:

  • Breathing disorders.
  • Chronic diarrhoea.
  • Incontinence.
  • Internal bleeding.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Some types of cancer (such as bladder cancer).

In many cases, endoscopy is used to do surgery such as removal of the gallbladder, tying and sealing the fallopian tubes, removing polyp or small growth from bladder or bowel, and taking out small tumours and foreign objects from the lungs or digestive system. The advantages of endoscopy surgery include smaller incision, shorter hospital stay and less pain. Endoscopy can be sued to take tissue sample for the purpose of biopsy in cancer cases and many other conditions. Advances in endoscopy have made it possible to take biopsies of the intestine, lungs or other internal organs without the need for major surgery.


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