When symptoms require your doctor to examine your digestive system, you’ll likely have a procedure called an endoscopy. Endoscopy is a broad name for a variety of medical techniques used to examine the inside of the body using an endoscope — a flexible tube with an attached camera and light.
Your doctor also can use special tools during an endoscopic procedure to obtain tissue samples or biopsies for further evaluation by a pathologist.
Emerson Hospital offers expert endoscopy services in its state-of-the-art Endoscopy Center. A team of board-certified doctors who specialize in digestive health perform the full range of endoscopy procedures.
• Learn more about the procedures for endoscopy patients during the COVID-19 crisis.
Colonoscopy is the most effective screening technique for colorectal cancer — the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. — because it can detect early-stage colorectal cancer before symptoms occur, when treatment is most effective.
A colonoscopy is a routine outpatient procedure in which your doctor uses a colonoscope (a type of endoscope) to view the entire lining of the colon and rectum for abnormalities. Intravenous (IV) sedation is used during the procedure so you’ll be comfortable during the exam.
It’s recommended that adults have a screening colonoscopy procedure every 10 years starting at age 50. If you have certain conditions such as a family history of colon cancer, or a long personal history of ulcerative colitis, you may need to be screened more often, and starting earlier than age 50. It’s best to discuss this with your primary care physician or gastroenterologist.
In addition to its effectiveness as a screening tool for colon cancer, a colonoscopy may be used to determine the cause of unexplained chronic diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Sigmoidoscopy is an outpatient procedure used to view the lining of the rectum and the lower third of the colon (called the sigmoid and descending colon). This test is usually done when a complete colonoscopy isn’t required.
Also called upper endoscopy or gastroscopy, EGD is performed to examine your esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). While you’re sedated, the endoscope is inserted through the mouth and gently threaded down the back of the mouth into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
EGD also is used to retrieve tissue samples for evaluation (biopsy), to remove small growths (polyps) and treat bleeding ulcers. It also provides access to control upper gastrointestinal bleeding, and dilate the esophagus when it’s been narrowed by strictures.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
ERCP is a procedure used to diagnose diseases of the gallbladder, biliary system, pancreas and liver. An endoscope is inserted through the mouth into the stomach and duodenum, and examines where digestive fluid comes from (the liver, gallbladder and pancreas) to where it enters the intestines.
ERCP can also be used to treat certain conditions minimally invasively — with this procedure, certain gallstones can be removed and interventions can be performed to open narrowed bile ducts. Emerson Hospital also has advanced technology that enables direct visual access to the lower bile duct system using an extremely narrow endoscope.
Video capsule endoscopy
This is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. You swallow a vitamin-size capsule containing an endoscopy camera. As the capsule travels through your digestive tract, it takes pictures that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist. With capsule endoscopy, your doctor can see inside your small intestine — an area that isn’t easily reached with traditional endoscopy procedures.
Capsule endoscopy is also an option for screening for colon polyps in patients for whom a colonoscopy cannot be completed.
Emerson Hospital’s Endoscopy Center offers flexible hours, so you can schedule your endoscopic appointment at the time of day that’s most convenient for you.
For more information about Emerson’s Endoscopy Center, call 978-287-3300