The ability to see inside the body has been highly valued for as long as medicine has been practiced. In the past, this was challenging and often dangerous because the technology simply wasn’t available to do so safely. Over time, though, scientists have developed new methods for visualizing internal organs and even performing medical procedures. One crucially important development that has been helpful for gastroenterology but also for treating obesity is the endoscope. Endoscopy procedures offer an impressive combination of precision, minimally invasive techniques, and diagnostic capabilities.
Overview of Endoscopy
The roots of endoscopy can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where rudimentary tools like tubes and candles were used for internal examinations. After going through countless innovations, the current technology involves the use of a slender, flexible tube that is equipped with a camera and specialized tools for visualizing the interior of various organs and structures in the body. This minimally invasive approach has revolutionized medicine by providing real-time, high-definition images of the body’s internal workings; this has allowed for more precise diagnoses and has made possible therapeutic interventions without the need for traditional open surgery.
Endoscopy is widely utilized across medical specialties, from gastroenterology for examining the digestive tract to pulmonology for assessing the respiratory system, and it continues to play a pivotal role in improving patient outcomes and quality of care. In more recent years, the use of endoscopy has expanded even further and is now used for endobariatric weight loss procedures like at True You Weight Loss. A procedure like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) allows the doctor to achieve similar results as earlier forms of bariatric surgery but without the need for the kinds of incisions that are needed for laparoscopy.
Types of Endoscopy
Because endoscopy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, it is highly valued for being widely available to many different kinds of patients. This also means that it can be used in various ways for various purposes. Although there are many different types of endoscopy, these are the most common types:
- Gastrointestinal: Perhaps the most common use case for endoscopy is a situation where a gastroenterologist needs to more thoroughly examine a patient’s digestive system to look for abnormal growths or ulcers. The names for these procedures vary based on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is of interest; examples include upper endoscopy (esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, also known as gastroscopy), colonoscopy (large intestine), sigmoidoscopy (sigmoid colon), and enteroscopy (small intestine). There is also a more recent development that involves swallowing a small pill-shaped camera called capsule endoscopy.
- GI tract surgery: In addition to simply examining the digestive tract, an endoscope can be used to perform specific surgical procedures. One example is endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a type of endoscopy that involves treating conditions of the bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreas.
- Ultrasound: Endoscopic ultrasound combines endoscopy and ultrasound technology to obtain detailed images of the digestive tract and surrounding structures; it is most often used for diagnosing and staging cancers related to the digestive system.
- Respiratory: Doctors can also use a procedure like bronchoscopy to examine the airways and lungs. This kind of endoscopic procedure is typically used to investigate persistent coughs, lung infections, or abnormal chest X-rays.
- Urological: While somewhat similar to upper GI endoscopy, urologists use a type of endoscopy called cystoscopy for examining the bladder and urethra. This is commonly used to diagnose and treat urinary tract issues like kidney stones, blockages, or tumors.
- Gynecological: Gynecologists use endoscopy to inspect the uterus, cervix, and other parts of the female reproductive system in order to look for abnormal growths like polyps or fibroids. Like with other types of endoscopy, the procedure can be used therapeutically to remove a growth or diagnostically to obtain tissue samples for a biopsy.
- ENT: Ear, nose, and throat doctors can also use endoscopes to examine the nasal passages and sinuses. This procedure (rhinoscopy) also allows the direct visualization of the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose and above the throat.
Side Effects and Additional Considerations
Endoscopy is generally considered safe, but like any medical procedure it carries some potential risks and side effects. It’s important to note that the likelihood and severity of these side effects can vary depending on the type of endoscopy as well as individual factors. Common potential side effects and risks of endoscopy may include:
- Soreness: It is possible to have a sore throat or difficulty swallowing after an upper endoscopy that must be inserted through the mouth and down the esophagus. Even though the tube is relatively thin and flexible, it can still cause friction and irritation to the tissues it rubs up against; these sensations may also appear to feel like heartburn.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some patients may feel nauseated or experience vomiting after the procedure, though it tends to be more common with procedures that involve sedation.
- Bloating: For a variety of reasons, the introduction of an endoscope may lead to excess gas in the digestive tract that can lead to bloating.
- Bleeding: Minor bleeding may also occur after an endoscopy, though it is usually in cases where a polyp or other growth is surgically removed.
- Infection: Although rare, there is a small risk of infection in the area where the endoscope is inserted.
- Allergic reaction: Some patients may have allergic reactions to medications or materials used during the procedure, such as sedatives or disinfectants. This risk is typically assessed before the procedure.
- Perforation: While extremely rare, there is a small risk of the endoscope perforating the tissues around the organ or structure being examined. Some preexisting conditions may make the tissues more susceptible.
It’s important to note that an evaluation of these and other risks is standard when an endoscopy is considered. Every patient will have a chance to discuss the potential side effects with their health care provider before the procedure begins. In most cases, even minor side effects usually resolve on their own within a few days of the procedure. Severe abdominal pain, fever, or bleeding is highly unusual and should be treated as an emergency.
Endoscopic Procedures for Weight Loss
Endoscopy has truly changed many areas of medicine, but the area that only a small percentage of people have experienced is endoscopic weight loss procedures. As noted earlier, ESG is a state-of-the-art example of endoscopy that involves resizing the stomach from the inside to make it smaller and thus able to hold less food. This has a profound impact on both hunger and satiety, and for many people is the key to long-term, sustained weight loss. But rather than requiring a lengthy recovery like bariatric surgery, the patient is back to normal activities within a couple days.
If you’re like most other Americans, you’ve probably tried the traditional weight loss methods of diet and exercise. And while they are important aspects of losing weight, the evidence is clear that diet and exercise alone are not very effective. At True You Weight Loss, we are dedicated to offering the alternative: minimally invasive endoscopic procedures that are designed to help you lose weight consistently. If you’d like to learn more about ESG or our other offerings, please contact us today to request a consultation. Freedom is waiting!