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An endoscope is a flexible instrument with a light and camera on the end, and the namesake for a procedure known as an endoscopy. This minimally invasive tool is especially useful for detecting, diagnosing and treating gastrointestinal conditions like colon cancer, diverticulosis and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD).

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What are endoscopes used for?

The gastrointestinal system covers a lot of ground, from the mouth, throat and esophagus to the stomach, intestines, rectum and anus. These organs can be sensitive or located in hard-to-reach areas. Traditional imaging tools or treatment methods aren't always the right choice for this region of the body — that's where endoscopes come in.

Endoscopes allow us to safely and comfortably restore your digestive health. These flexible tubes empower us to do everything from checking for colorectal cancer to removing abnormal esophageal cells using heated radiofrequency — all without making an incision. Endoscopes are even used in minimally invasive neurosurgery.

Doctor examining patient with endoscope and reviewing information on computer screen.
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Your doctor may order an endoscopy to better understand the source of your symptoms. Endoscopes are part of our go-to toolset for understanding if you’re living with a condition like:

Barrett's esophagus
Celiac disease
Colon cancer
Colon polyps
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
Gallbladder cancer
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastrointestinal bleeding
Gluten Intolerance
Irritable bowel syndrome
Pancreatic diseases
Peptic ulcer
Swallowing disorders


An endoscopy can come in different forms, yet the common link between each type is the ability to evaluate your insides in real-time without the need for an incision. The following types of endoscopies use some form of an imaging tool to evaluate your organs:

  • Capsule endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy 
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Esophageal manometry
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Upper GI endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy

A capsule endoscopy is a procedure we use to understand the insides of your digestive system better. It involves 2 main parts:

  • A tiny, vitamin-sized camera called a PillCam
  • A sensor belt and data recorder worn around the abdomen

The test works by swallowing a PillCam that snaps photos of your insides as it moves through your intestines. These images get transmitted to the sensor belt for your doctor to view in real-time.

The PillCam will leave your body in a natural bowel movement.


A colonoscopy is an exam where a doctor inserts a flexible endoscope into the large intestine to look for warning signs for colon cancer and other diseases, like:

  • Areas of inflammation or bleeding
  • Colon polyps
  • Tumors
  • Ulcers

A colonoscopy is the most effective way to prevent colon cancer because if we find a polyp during the procedure, we can remove it on the spot. 

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

An ERCP helps us examine your bile and pancreatic ducts for tumors, leaks and other abnormalities. It combines using an endoscope and X-rays to get a clear picture of your insides. Here's what to expect during the exam:

  • The endoscope is used to position a catheter in the first portion of the small intestine, called the duodenum.
  • Your doctor can now clearly see the inside of your body on an accompanying screen.
  • The catheter injects dye into the ducts to help illuminate the insides clearly on X-rays.
  • Your doctor will take a series of X-rays.

This test is performed under sedation, and most people fall asleep and are not aware of the procedure. Because you'll still feel groggy coming out of sedation, you'll need someone who's 18 or older to take you home. Your doctor may recommend staying overnight in the hospital.

Esophageal manometry

Having a condition that limits your ability to swallow can have a major impact on your quality of life. An esophageal manometry can help.

During this procedure, an endoscope lined with sensors passes through your nose, down your esophagus and into your stomach. The sensors measure the pressure and the pattern of muscle contractions in your esophagus. This helps us understand the root cause of symptoms such as pain, heartburn or swallowing difficulty.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)

An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is similar to the ultrasound that a doctor would use to look at a fetus in a pregnant person's womb. Both procedures use the power of sound waves to create images.

By getting up close to the organs we need to examine, an EUS can produce more detailed images than traditional imaging tests. That clarity allows us to:

  • Understand how far a gastrointestinal cancer has progressed (staging)
  • Examine pancreatitis and other pancreas disorders
  • Study the muscles of the lower rectum to see why you may be experiencing bowel incontinence
  • Look at bumps along the intestinal wall

The procedure typically lasts 30–90 minutes and people can usually go home the same day.

Upper GI endoscopy

An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy allows us to get a close look at the 3 main parts of your upper GI tract:

  • Esophagus 
  • Stomach
  • Duodenum (first part of the small intestine)

The light and camera on the endoscope (about the width of a paperclip) allow us to examine your body in real-time. To help you feel more comfortable, we may offer medication before the exam that allows you to doze off into a light sleep. Because of this, you'll need someone 18 years or older to get you home safely the day of your exam.




Endoscopes aren’t just for taking a look inside your body. They can be used to treat a variety of conditions in a minimally invasive way. What does that mean for you? You’ll benefit from less pain, lower risk of infection and quicker recovery times compared to traditional “open” surgery.


A cholangioscopy helps us examine and treat your bile ducts, which produce the fluid that helps break down food. It allows us to do everything from diagnosing a polyp to removing bile stones.

Endoscopic enteral stenting

A stent is a tube that helps keep an obstructed area within organs, vessels and ducts open. Enteral stents are placed within the stomach, small bowel or colon to unblock your gastrointestinal tract. Enteral stenting can also help manage leaks, fistulas and the narrowing of the GI tract.

Interventional endoscopy

With an interventional endoscopy, tiny surgical instruments are passed through an endoscope to repair the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Interventional endoscopy can be used to treat:

  • Bile duct stones
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding 
  • Tumors in the esophagus, stomach, biliary system, pancreas, small bowel and colon
Radiofrequency ablation of Barrett’s esophagus

For people living with Barrett’s esophagus, some of the tissue in their esophagus is papered over by tissue similar to the intestinal lining.

Radiofrequency ablation is a technique where we use an endoscope to deliver controlled heat energy to the esophagus. This heat destroys the abnormal cells created by Barrett’s esophagus while the healthy tissue underneath remains unharmed.

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