An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube. The tube has a light and a camera at the end. It is passed into the body to help doctors see inside.
When the endoscope is used to look at the upper end of the digestive system it is called an upper endoscopy. This test may have other names depending on the area examined:
- a gastroscopy or gastrointestinal endoscopy looks inside the gullet (oesphagus), stomach and duodenum
- an enteroscopy looks further into the small bowel to the jejunum and ileum.
You have an upper endoscopy in a hospital outpatient department or on a ward. You can usually go home on the same day.
You will be asked to lie on your side and you will have a mild sedative to help you relax. The endoscope is passed through the mouth and stomach to look inside the duodenum.
If needed the endoscope may be passed further into the small bowel to look inside the jejunum and ileum. Some people find this uncomfortable but it should only last a short time. You will be given painkillers to help.
During the endoscopy, the doctor may take a small sample of tissue, called a biopsy. This will then be looked at under a microscope by a pathologist (someone who specialises in looking at cells). They will check the tissue for cancer cells.
An upper endoscopy cannot reach far enough to look inside the lowest end of the ileum. If this is needed, an endoscope can be passed through the back passage (rectum) and large bowel. This is called a colonoscopy.