Endoscopes are long, thin, flexible tubes with video cameras and a light at their tip which can be passed by the gastroenterologist through the mouth into the upper gastrointestinal tract (upper endoscopy or gastroscopy), or through the anus into the colon (colonoscopy). The image of the intestinal tract is relayed to a video monitor and is carefully examined by the gastroenterologist. Fine instruments can also be passed through the endoscope and biopsies taken or polyps removed. The procedures are performed while under sedation which is administered by an anaesthetist.
During upper endoscopy, the gastroenterologist examines your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), and can detect abnormalities such as inflammation, ulcers or tumours in these regions, and also with the help of biopsies diagnose conditions such as Helicobacter infection, Coeliac disease, Barrett’s oesophagus or cancer.
During colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist examines your rectum and colon and often the end of the small intestine. This enables detection of conditions such as diverticular disease or haemorrhoids, biopsy of any abnormalities and also removal of polyps which have the potential to become cancerous.