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This is a test that lets your doctor see the lining of your upper digestive system, which includes the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It is usually done under sedation and is painless. The doctor passes a narrow, flexible tube with a tiny light and camera at the end, through your mouth. This is the best way to find problems, such as inflammation, ulcers or tumors. Specimens can be taken through the endoscope for laboratory analysis.

The endoscope can be used also to treat problems that are seen.

  • Bleeding. Bleeding can occur from several lesions, such as varicose veins in the esophagus (varices), and ulcers in the stomach and duodenum. These can be treated by applying heat locally, or special medicines, metal clips or rubber bands, through the endoscope.
      
  • Polyp removal. Polyps are small growths in the lining which vary from a tiny dot to several inches. Most are noncancerous, but are best removed during Endoscopy to prevent the development of cancer. The doctor can remove polyps using a metal loop (snare), with cauterization.
      
  • Narrowed areas can be stretched using special balloons or tubes. Sometimes it is necessary also to place a permanent tube (stent) in the narrowed area.
      
  • Gastrostomy and feeding tubes. Sometimes Endoscopy is used to place a tube into the stomach or intestine for temporary supplemental feeding. If this is needed for long periods, a special opening (gastrostomy) is made between the stomach and the abdominal wall so that the feeding can be applied directly. This is called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG).
Other special tests and treatments may be used in some cases. Your doctor will explain these, if necessary.
 

Limitations and Risks. Discuss these with your doctor

  • The test is not perfect. Occasionally, important lesion may not be seen and treatment attempts may be unsuccessful.
  • The medicines may make you sick. You may have nausea, vomiting, hives, dry mouth, or a reddened face and neck. A tender lump may form where the IV was placed. Call your doctor if redness, pain or swelling appears to be spreading.

Complications can occur. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Bleeding
  • Perforation (a tear of the lining)
  • Heart and lung problems

Alternatives

  • Diagnoses can be made by X-ray studies (barium meal), and sometimes by special scans.
  • Treatments (as listed above) would otherwise require an operation.
        
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