Endoscopy means looking inside the body for medical reasons using an endoscope, an instrument used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity of the body. Unlike most other medical imaging devices, endoscopes are inserted directly into the organ. Endoscopy can also refer to using a borescope in technical situations where direct line-of-sight observation is not feasible. An upper GI endoscopy is done in patients having problems in swallowing, frequent heartburn, abdominal pain, chest discomfort, vomiting especially of blood or abnormal findings on gastrointestinal X-rays. Colonoscopy is performed on patients passing blood in the stools, to check for colon cancer and to remove precancerous lesions such as polyps.
As an alternative to endoscopy, barium contrast X-rays may be done which use a contrast medium (barium) to highlight the intestinal tract on X-rays. There is minimal risk that the endoscope may injure or puncture some part of your body. For more specific risks related to a particular type of endoscopy, check with your doctor. Endoscopy helps the doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, endoscopy can be used to provide treatment like removing foreign bodies, benign tumors such as polyps, opening up of strictures, removing obstructed gallstones and stopping active bleeding from ulcers or from dilated veins called varices.