Endoscopy: What are the Risks Involved?

Endoscopy is a process that involves inserting a thin and long tube (endoscope) into the body to assess a tissue or an internal organ. Endoscopy is also used for other tasks such as minor surgery and imaging. This minimally invasive procedure usually involves inserting the endoscope through the openings of the body like the anus and the mouth.

An endoscope can also be inserted into incisions that are small like in the abdomen or knee. Keyhole surgery is surgery that is completed using an endoscope inserted through a small incision. Modern endoscopy provides very detailed images, easy to carry out, and has been proven highly useful in several areas of medicine.

There are three primary reasons why an endoscopy is carried out — investigation, confirmation, and treatment. In the United States alone, around 75 million endoscopies are carried out annually. Endoscopy is also done to remove polyps or tumors from the digestive tract.

Endoscopy Procedure

As mentioned earlier, the procedure is done for three main reasons:

  • If the patient experiences breathing disorders, difficulty swallowing, stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and abdominal pain, endoscopy will be carried out to help investigate the possible cause of the symptoms.
  • Diagnosis confirmation. The procedure is also used to confirm a cancer diagnosis or other conditions.
  • Endoscopes can be used to remove a polyp or cauterize a vessel that is bleeding.

In some cases, the procedure is done with another procedure like an ultrasound scan. Some modern endoscopes now have sensitive lights that have narrow-band imaging. It uses green and blue wavelengths. The lights can make it a lot easier for doctors to see precancerous conditions.

Use of Endoscope in Surgery

Over the years, endoscopy has seen many advancements. Procedures like gallbladder removal, trying and sealing of the fallopian tubes, and removal of tumors from the lungs or the digestive system has become very common. A modified version of the endoscope is used in keyhole or laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery will only require a small incision. It is used for the removal of the uterus (hysterectomies), removal of the appendix (appendectomies), and removal of the prostate tissue (prostatectomies). This technique can ensure less blood loss and allows patients to recover faster compared to conventional methods.

Endoscopy: Possible Risks and Side Effects

While the procedure is considered very safe, there are still some risks involved. Often, the risk will depend on the area that is being examined. Some of the risks of the procedure include:

  • Complications (this can be associated to conditions that are pre-existing)
  • Over sedation (however, sedation is not always required)
  • Numb throat (lasts for a few hours due to local anesthetic use)
  • Internal bleeding (often minor and can be treated through endoscopic cauterization)
  • Infection (often occurs when other procedures are done simultaneously)
  • Tear or perforation of the linings of the esophagus or the stomach (this is a very rare complication)
  • Mild cramping
  • Bloated feeling

Visit your doctor as soon as possible if the following symptoms manifest:

  • Vomiting blood
  • Dark-colored stool
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent and severe abdominal pain

Recovering from the Procedure

Typically,  the observation period will usually last at least an hour or until such time that the sedative has worn off. The procedure has a very low complication rate because they are minimally invasive. Common side effects include bloating and sore throat usually resolve on their own.