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Most Common Endoscopic Procedures

While there are numerous specializations when discussing endoscopy, some procedures are much more common than others. Some of the most common types of endoscopic procedures are listed here for reference. These include colonoscopy, upper GI endoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, and liver biopsy.

Colonoscopy - This procedure is a visual examination of the patient's colon. The endoscope is inserted through the anus, and allows access to the lining of the large bowel, part of the small intestine, and the end of the GI tract (the rectum). Colonoscopy can detect and sometimes treat polyps, colorectal bleeding, fissures, strictures, fistulas, foreign bodies, Crohn's Disease, and colorectal cancer.

Upper GI Endoscopy - This procedure is a visual examination of the patient's esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Upper endoscopy allows for evaluating symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It is the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper GI tract and is also more accurate than X-rays for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Upper endoscopy may also be used to obtain small tissue samples (biopsies).

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This procedure is a visual examination of the patient's rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine).
This procedure evaluates only the lower third of the colon. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be used to detect and sometimes treat rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, pain, colon cancer, and abnormalities that may appear on X-rays, fissures, strictures, fistulas, foreign bodies, colorectal cancer, and benign and malignant lesions.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography - Also known as ERCP, this procedure is used to diagnose disorders of the pancreas, bile duct, liver, and gallbladder. ERCP may help treat gallstones or other blockages, where stenting or sphincterotomy to open the bile duct is necessary. An endoscope is passed through the mouth, beyond the stomach and into the small intestine (duodenum).

Liver Biopsy - This procedure is a visual examination of the patient's liver, for the purpose of obtaining a biopsy of liver tissue.

Endoscopic Ultrasound - This procedure is a visual examination of the patient's lining and wall of the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, or colon. The ultrasound component produces sound waves that create visual images of the digestive tract which extend beyond the inner surface lining and also allows visualization of adjacent organs. EUS can also be used to diagnose diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder when other tests are inconclusive, and it can be used to determine the stage of cancers. EUS provides a minimally invasive method for acquiring tissue samples from gastrointestinal tumors and lymph nodes that may not be easily accessible by other methods such as radiographic or surgical guidance.

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