Seventy-five million endoscopic procedures are performed each year in the United States, of which 51.5 million are gastrointestinal endoscopies. While a colonoscopy may be the most common, with 19 million annually, there are several others, each requiring specialized dietary guidelines before and after the examination.
What is an endoscopic procedure?
An endoscopic procedure is a medical imaging technique that utilizes an endoscope, a thin tube with a camera and light, to examine the interior of an organ or body cavity. These are not considered surgical, as they do not require incisions.
Endoscopies are generally conducted to determine the causes of symptoms, such as stomach pain, difficulty swallowing, digestive tract bleeding, changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The inspection can identify diseases and disorders, including cancer, ulcers, gastroesophageal disease, inflammation, celiac disease, blockages, pancreatitis, internal bleeding, and precancerous abnormalities. It can also be used to collect samples for testing and treat digestive problems.
Types of Endoscopic Procedures
An esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), also known as an upper endoscopy, explores the upper digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. Patients are usually given anesthetics, and the procedure typically lasts less than 30 minutes.
EGDs can investigate abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing; find a cause of bleeding; detect ulcers, tumors, and inflammation; and obtain small biopsies.
Prior to the EGD, patients cannot eat or drink for six to eight hours, however, afterward, should wait about an hour and only eat or drink when they can comfortably swallow. They should start off by sipping water. Patients should avoid consuming alcohol for 24 hours after the procedure, and eat easily digestible foods for 24 to 48 hours. Some options include soup, eggs, pudding, juice, and applesauce.
A colonoscopy is one of the most common endoscopies. It examines the lining of the large intestines, and sometimes, part of the small intestine. The endoscope is inserted through the rectum using anesthesia, and the procedure usually lasts about a half hour to an hour.
A colonoscopy detects colorectal bleedings, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer, to name a few ailments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 undergo colonoscopies regularly to screen for colorectal cancer, as on average, one in 23 men and women are at risk of developing colon cancer.
Patients are instructed to consume only clear liquids the day before, and refrain from eating four hours beforehand.
Afterward, a doctor may advise patients to stay away from food for a few hours. Once the patient feels comfortable to eat, they will want to rehydrate and keep their diet light. After a colonoscopy, a patient should drink water, beverages containing electrolytes—such as Gatorade—vegetable and fruit juice, or herbal tea. Patients can consume light solids like popsicles, crackers, mashed potatoes, applesauce, soup, pudding, scrambled eggs, and white toast.
The sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy in that the endoscope is inserted through the rectum, but used to specifically examine its lining and just part of the large intestine. Also unlike a colonoscopy, sedation is unnecessary, but can be administered. The duration of the procedure is also typically shorter than a colonoscopy, at a total of 10 to 20 minutes.
A sigmoidoscopy can be used to screen for abnormal cells, polyps, or cancer.
Prior to the sigmoidoscopy, diet preparation may be similar to that of a colonoscopy. After, patients can start eating normally when they feel able.
An enteroscopy, which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, examines the small intestine, and can be completed using multiple methods, including balloon enteroscopy and capsule enteroscopy. These procedures are generally used to find the source of intestinal bleeding.
There are two types of balloon enteroscopy: double and single. A double-balloon enteroscopy, which requires sedation, uses two balloons that alternate inflation and deflation to move the endoscope in the small intestine. A single-balloon enteroscopy utilizes one balloon to attach an overtube to the small intestine, so the endoscope can move deeper inside.
The capsule method, which does not require sedation, uses a pill-like capsule with tiny cameras that a patient can swallow to take photos of the digestive tract to be transmitted to a recorder. The capsule later leaves the body through a bowel movement.
Before this procedure, patients should avoid solid foods and non-clear liquids the night before, and avoid consuming anything four hours prior. Afterward, a particular diet may be prescribed by the doctor, but it’s safe to start with a simple regimen of easily digestible foods.