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Endoscopy - Introduction

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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An endoscopy is a procedure where the inside of your body is examined internally using an endoscope.


An endoscope is a thin, long, flexible tube that has a light source and a video camera at one end. Images of the inside of your body are relayed to a television screen.

Endoscopes can be inserted into the body through a natural opening, such as through your throat or anus (the opening through which stools are passed out of the body).

Alternatively, it can be inserted through a small surgical cut made in the skin.

What happens during an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is usually carried out while a person is awake. It is not painful, but can be uncomfortable so a local anaesthetic or sedative (medication that has a calming effect) may be given to help you relax.

The endoscope is carefully inserted into your body. Exactly where it enters your body will depend on the part of the body being examined.

An endoscopy can take 15-60 minutes to carry out, depending on what it's being used for. It will usually be performed on an outpatient basis, which means you will not have to stay in hospital overnight.

Read more about how an endoscopy is performed.


An endoscopy is usually safe and the risk of complications is low (less than 1 in 100).

Possible complications of an endoscopy include an infection in the part of the body that the endoscope is used to examine and excessive bleeding.

Read more about the risks of an endoscopy.

Types of endoscopes

Some of the most commonly used types of endoscopes include:

Other types of endoscope include:

  • endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) used to check for gallstones
  • broncoscopes, used to examine your airways and lungs
  • colonoscopes, used to examine your large intestine (colon)

An endoscopy can be used to investigate if symptoms suggest there might be a problem. It can also be used to help perform some types of keyhole surgery (laparoscopic surgery) such as removing the appendix or gallbladder.

Read more about what an endoscopy is used for.

Medical Review: May 07, 2012
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