Endoscopy is a medical procedure that allows a doctor to observe the inside of the body without performing major surgery. An endoscope (fibrescope) is a long, usually flexible tube with a lens at one end and a telescope at the other. The end with the lens is inserted into the patient. Light passes down the tube (via bundles of optical fibres) to illuminate the relevant area, and the telescopic eyepiece magnifies the area so the doctor can see what is there. Usually, an endoscope is inserted through one of the body's natural openings, such as the mouth, urethra or anus. Some endoscopies may require a small incision through the skin, and are usually performed under general or local anaesthetic.

There are different types of endoscopes for different parts of the body. Each has its own name, depending on the part of the body it is intended to investigate, such as:

  • Arthroscope - inserted through a small incision to examine a skeletal joint.
  • Bronchoscope - inserted down the trachea (windpipe) to examine the lung.
  • Colonoscope - inserted through the anus to examine the colon (bowel).
  • Gastroscope - inserted down the oesophagus to examine the stomach.

The exact procedure used depends on the type of endoscopy and choice of anaesthesia. You may have local or general anaesthetic. The doctor may simply make a diagnosis based on the images they see, or they may perform a biopsy or minor surgery. Once the endoscopy is complete, the endoscope is removed. Any incision is sutured (sewn) closed.

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