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What Is Balloon Endoscopy?

A balloon endoscopy is used to view the small and large intestines, stomach, and the esophagus.
Endoscopes contain a small camera and light.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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A balloon endoscopy is a technique that makes it possible to use gastrointestinal endoscopes to survey the condition of the small and large intestines, stomach, and the esophagus. By using balloon endoscopy, it is possible to identify a number of health issues while they are still in their infancy and more responsive to treatment. There are two approaches to this procedure, known as a single balloon endoscopy and a double balloon endoscopy.

With the single balloon approach, the lone endoscope is used to allow the physician to view the interior area of the gastrointestinal tract. A small camera and a light are situated at the end of the scope, feeding back data that the physician can view on a screen. The body of the scope is outfitted with a balloon that can be inflated and deflated as required during the procedure. This makes it possible to anchor the body of the device while allowing the camera and light to continue advancing through the tract. Once the area is thoroughly examined, the balloon is deflated and the endoscope can move on to the next section with ease.

There are several other functions that are routinely part of this exploration using a single balloon endoscope. The device is capable of rinsing an area with water, helping to increase visibility for the physician. Air can also be introduced into the area if necessary. It is also possible to use the endoscope while performing a biopsy.

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A double balloon endoscopy provides all the functions of a single balloon procedure. The difference is that a second balloon is included at the tip of the endoscope, where the camera and light are situated. Both balloons can be inflated and deflated as necessary to allow the physician the most comprehensive view of a given area, as well as to help move the endoscope through the tract with more efficiency.

Because of the nature of a balloon endoscopy, the patient is sedated before the procedure begins. On average, a procedure will take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the findings and the type of treatments that are deemed necessary by the attending physician. Both the single and double balloon endoscopy procedures do have some degree of risk. The most common risk factors involve the perforation of one of the intestines or bleeding that is the result of harvesting samples as part of the biopsy. However, as internal procedures go, the process of a balloon endoscopy is considered to be a relatively safe procedure that is likely to result in little to no lingering discomfort for the patient once he or she is awake.

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