Endoscopy is the use of a thin, flexible, hollow tube that allows a doctor to see the inside of the body without traditional open surgery. The tubes, called endoscopes, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and levels of stiffness to reach different parts of the body. Some also contain tiny tools that can be passed through the tube and used for procedures once they are inside the body. The use of tools within an endoscope is called endoscopic surgery and is one type of minimally invasive surgery, or surgery using a very small opening.
Endoscopes contain either a series of lenses or fiber optics that transmit light and images. They may have a tiny camera that projects images onto a screen. An endoscope can be inserted through a tiny incision or into an opening in the body (such as the mouth, nose, or anus).
Endoscopy is often used to examine the digestive tract, but it may be used in many locations throughout the body. It allows a physician to easily and safely get a direct examination of areas of inflammation, sources of bleeding, cysts, tumors, gallstones, the insides of joints, and more, through only a very tiny opening.