Endoscopy is a technique to directly visualise the interior of hollow organs. An endoscope is a long, usually flexible tube, although there are also rigid ones. It has a light system to illuminate the interior of the organ, a lens and a system of optical fibres to transmit the image, and an eyepiece or a video system to see and record the images on a screen.
The endoscopes may be as thin as 2 mm of diameter for very young children, and up to 12 mm. The length varies from 10 cm to longer than one meter. Some endoscopes have a channel to insert instruments to take biopsies, to insert and recover liquids from the organ, to take samples for microbiologic studies, to use ultrasounds or laser light for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
In asthma and allergic conditions endoscopy can be used to examine the nose, the throat, the larynx, the trachea and bronchi, the oesophagus, the stomach, the large intestine. The tube is inserted through the nose, the mouth or the anus to reach the target organ.
Endoscopy may be performed in the evaluation and diagnosis of varied conditions, some of allergic origin and others from alternative causes considered in the differential diagnosis. We can mention turbinate and adenoid hypertrophy, sinusitis, laryngitis, vocal cord disfunction, oesophagitis, anisakidiosis, or colitis. In asthma, endoscopy can be used to rule out alternative conditions, or to take samples for diagnostic and investigational purposes.
The endoscopic examination can be quite cumbersome or painful. The patient may need sedation or even general anaesthetics. Although generally safe, some complications may appear. An informed consent is needed before the procedure, in which the benefits and risks of the specific type of endoscopy are explained.
If you are scheduled for an endoscopic examination your doctor will give you full details and instructions for the preparation of the procedure.
Endoscope (Photo by Benutzer Kalumet (Wikimedia Commons)
Angel Mazon MD, PhD