What Are Endoscopic Procedures? 4 Types

Medically Reviewed on 12/12/2022
What Are Endoscopic Procedures
Learn about the types, uses, processes, and risks of endoscopic procedures

Endoscopy is a nonsurgical medical procedure to visually examine your digestive tract by inserting a thin, flexible tube attached to a light and camera. Doctors use this procedure to diagnose diseases that affect your internal organs or tissues.

Learn about endoscopic procedures' types, uses, processes, and risks.

What are the 4 types of endoscopy?

  • Upper endoscopy: This type involves passing a thin, flexible tube through the mouth, throat, and esophagus. It helps the doctor view images of your esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine.
  • Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy: In this procedure, a flexible tube is inserted into the large intestine through the rectum, making it easy to visualize the intestines. Both sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are used to detect colorectal cancer. Sigmoidoscopy allows your doctor to view only the lower part of the colon, whereas colonoscopy will enable them to see the entire large intestine.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: This procedure uses a combination of endoscopy and fluoroscopy. Your doctor may use this procedure to visually assess your pancreas, gallbladder, liver, bile ducts, and other structures. It can also be used to place stents and conduct biopsies. 
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: This procedure combines upper endoscopy and ultrasound technology to examine the digestive tract. It is used to detect pancreatic, colon, and various other cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and other causes of abdominal pain.

Why would you need an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is used to determine the cause of digestive problems, including:

Are endoscopic procedures painful?

Endoscopic procedures are typically not painful. Here is what to expect when undergoing an endoscopy:

  • Preparation: Before the procedure, you need to fast for at least 6-8 hours. Laxatives are administered the day before the surgery to clear out the colon.
  • Sedation: To alleviate discomfort, almost all endoscopic procedures are performed under sedation. The anesthesia is administered intravenously. Although you may wake up within an hour, the effects of sedation are long-lasting and you should avoid tasks that require complete alertness for at least the next 24 hours.
  • General anesthesia: General anesthesia may be done in extreme circumstances, such as for procedures on young children.

Is endoscopy a low risk procedure?

Although endoscopic procedures are generally safe, there are a few risks or complications:

  • Bleeding: Mild bleeding may occur during an endoscopic procedure; the risk increases if the procedure is done to remove tissue (biopsy). Bleeding during the procedure may necessitate a blood transfusion in rare cases.
  • Infection: While the risk of infection is quite low, it can occur if other additional procedures are performed along with the endoscopy. To prevent infection, preventive antibiotics may be administered before surgery. Mild cases are treated using antibiotics.
  • Tearing of the gastrointestinal tract: This complication is extremely rare and involves a tear in the esophagus and other parts of the upper digestive tract.
  • Reactions to sedation and anesthesia: An upper endoscopy is usually performed under sedation or anesthesia. However, the risk of allergic reactions is relatively low.


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer
Medically Reviewed on 12/12/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Digestive Diseases and Endoscopy. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-endoscopy

Endoscopic Ultrasound. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/12025-endoscopic-ultrasound

Endoscopy. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/tests/endoscopy.html

Upper endoscopy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/about/pac-20395197