Gastroscopy and colonscopy are both procedures to allow investigation of parts of the digestive tract and are both forms of endoscopy, a technique which has been in use since the 1950s as a less invasive method of diagnosing conditions and carrying out some procedures than open surgery. Endoscopic procedures minimise the stress placed on the body, involve no incisions and resultant scarring and reduce recovery time substantially compared to conventional surgery.
Gastroscopy involves the introduction of the gastroscope via the mouth to examine conditions relating to the oesophagus (colloquially known as the foodpipe or gullet), the stomach and the duodenum (the upper section of the small bowel). During a gastroscopy the doctor is able to examine the digestive tract with a small camera on the end of the device and some small procedures can also be carried out, such as biopsy (taking a small tissue sample), stopping the bleeding from an ulcer, and removal of polyps (small growths in the lining of the digestive tract).
A gastroscopy is the most effective method of diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain or any vomiting or bleeding from the digestive tract and is more accurate than other diagnostic methods (such as X-ray) for digestive tract conditions.
A gastroscopy procedure is completed under a mild sedative and sometimes a local anaesthetic is applied to the back of the throat to prevent the gag reflex. The procedure normally takes 15-30 minutes and patients can generally leave after a two-hour recuperation period. Patients should not drive and should rest for the remainder of the day.
A colonscopy is very similar to a gastroscopy, with an endoscopic device called a colonoscope being introduced to examine the bowel via the anus. As with gastroscopes, colonscopes are used primarily for diagnosis and examination of the bowel wall, and can also carry out the same range of small procedures i.e. biopsy and removal of small polyps. A colonoscopy is an effective diagnostic tool where one of the following conditions are present:
- Positive faecal occult blood test
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- A history of precancerous polyps
- Rectal bleeding (in patients over 50)
A colonoscopy is completed under a mild sedative. The procedure, as with gastroscopy, normally takes 15-30 minutes and patients can generally leave after a two-hour recuperation period. Patients should not drive and should rest for the remainder of the day.
For both gastroscopy and colonoscopy the relevant section of digestive tract must be empty (stomach for gastroscopy, bowel for colonoscopy). Gastroscopy patients must not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to the procedure. Colonoscopy patients must clear their bowels using special medication the day before the procedure.