Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: Procedure, Types and Risk


Gastrointestinal endoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to see the inside lining of the digestive tract. The examination is performed using a flexible fiberoptic tube with a tiny camera (endoscope). The camera is connected to a video screen or eyepiece. The endoscope is not only useful in diagnosis of gastrointestinal disease but can also be used in its treatment.

Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: Procedure, Types and Risk

The current endoscopes are derived from a system which was created in 1806. The first system was composed of a tiny tube with a mirror and wax candle. A gastrointestinal endoscopy can be performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Using the endoscope, doctors evaluate several problems like muscle spasms or ulcers.

Types of Endoscopy

Endoscopy has several names which depend on the portion of the digestive tract that the doctor wants to see.


This type of gastrointestinal endoscopy allows the doctor to view the inner lining of the large intestine including the colon and rectum. A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is used in this procedure. It helps find colon polyps, ulcers, tumors, inflammations and areas of bleeding. During the procedure, tissue samples can be collected and abnormal growths can be removed.


This type of gastrointestinal endoscopy involves viewing the small bowel. The procedure is used to diagnose and treat gastrointestinal bleeding. It can also be used to detect the cause of digestive problems like malabsorption. It can also be used to confirm problems of the small intestine that are discovered using an x-ray. During surgery, it can also be used to find and remove sores to minimize damage to healthy tissue.

Risks of Gastrointestinal (GI) Endoscopy

During the procedure, complications can occur. When it comes to upper GI endoscopy, bleeding and puncture of the esophagus or stomach walls can occur. Other complications from the procedure include severe irregular heartbeat, pulmonary aspiration, and reaction of the vagus nerve system to the sedatives used in the procedure.

For lower GI endoscopy (sigmoidoscopy, enteroscopy, colonoscopy), complications are very rare and only occur in less than 1.5% of cases. Possible complications include local pain, dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias, infection, bleeding, hole in the colon, explosion of combustible gas in the colon and respiratory depression.

After the Procedure

After the gastrointestinal endoscopy, if the patient has been sedated, he/she will be moved to a recovery area to gain consciousness. Once sedation has completely worn off, the patient can be discharged. The doctors will give instructions and advise the patient on what to watch out for. It would be best to have someone take the patient home since he/she may feel drowsy.