We know the thought of a gastrointestinal endoscopy procedure can be a little daunting and intimidating. There are many factors to consider, and many questions you may have. You may not be sure exactly how the procedure works or the ways in which it will benefit your health.
An endoscopy is a non-surgical procedure that uses a device called an endoscope to examine internal organs and vessels of the body. Once the endoscope is inserted, a small camera on the end of the device will display a live view of your digestive tract on a color screen. This allows your gastroenterologist to detect any issues without making large incisions.
A little about endoscopes
There are many types of endoscopes, but most of them are flexible, lighted, thin, hollow tubes with a very small video camera attached on the end that can display live video on a monitor for your gastroenterologist to see.
The two main types of endoscopy procedures in gastrointestinal medicine include:
- Upper endoscopy involves conscious sedation for your relaxation, and for the prevention of any discomfort. A narrow and flexible endoscope is then inserted through the mouth and down into the esophagus to examine the upper GI tract, including the esophagus, the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. This procedure can also help us diagnose and treat ulcers, tumors and heartburn (GERD), among many other conditions.
- Colonoscopy involves using a flexible endoscope into the rectum and through the large intestine, in order to detect and treat lower gastrointestinal disorders. During this procedure, we can treat bleeding blood vessels and examine colonic inflammation (colitis). Colonoscopies are also often used for polypectomy procedures, where we can diagnose and remove precancerous polyps.
Do you need an upper or lower GI endoscopy? We recommend that a procedure be done if you are experiencing:
- Digestive tract bleeding
- Polyps or growths in the colon
- Stomach pain
- Changes in bowel habits (chronic constipation or diarrhea)
- Ulcers, gastritis or difficulty swallowing
Are there any risks to endoscopy procedures?
Endoscopy procedures are generally safe and far less risky than open surgery, with less chance of bleeding and infection. But keep in mind that an endoscopy is still a medical procedure, and the risk will depend on the type of endoscopy performed and the physician’s expertise. Having a highly trained, experienced endoscopist perform the procedure will significantly lower your risks. Some complications may occur, such as:
- Persistent pain in the area where the endoscopy is performed
- Redness and swelling
- Damage to organs (in very rare instances)
- Chest pain
There have been a few news stories emerging lately claiming some of those undergoing endoscopy procedures have contracted the superbug carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. We want you to know that none of those infections were contracted during a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.
The CRE infection occurred during a more advanced and sometimes life saving procedure, performed in hospitals, called ERCP. This procedure requires different equipment and uses the scope for other procedures that look for problems in other areas of the small intestine and bile duct areas.
Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates does not perform this procedure at our center. We would like to reassure our current and prospective patients that we take the care of our patients and the cleanliness of our instruments extremely seriously. Our staff and doctors have been trained and certified in the safe handling of our equipment. In fact, our center has received the AAAHC, the highest level of ambulatory care certification available.
After the endoscopy
Because most endoscopies are outpatient procedures, meaning they don’t require overnight stay, recovery time is generally short. Some procedures, like a colonoscopy, can have a slightly longer recovery time. Most patients are able to return to their normal daily activities the next day.
If you have been experiencing any troubling gastrointestinal symptoms, don’t wait to get answers. Contact Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates at (908) 483-4000 to schedule your appointment today.