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).
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.
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:
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
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Esophageal manometry
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
- Upper GI 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.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
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)
Upper GI endoscopy
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.
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.
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
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.