What Are the Different Types of Endoscopic Instruments?

Andrea Cross

Endoscopy is a medical procedure that involves inserting a scope into an organ or body structure for the purpose of imaging. This imaging can be essential to the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Endoscopy reduces the occurrence of scarring and infection that may result from more invasive procedures. There are two main types of endoscopic instruments available, rigid and flexible.

Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.
Doctors use an endoscope to conduct internal examinations.

Rigid endoscopic instruments consist of small, tubular devices. As the name suggests, these scopes do not have any bend or flex. They are filled with a series of lenses that magnify the image, allowing the examiner to see a greater amount of detail. A camera is attached to the instrument and allows pictures to be taken of the area. These scopes have a limited range of movement; however, the optics and durability are often better than the flexible types.

An endoscope may be used to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper duodenum.
An endoscope may be used to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper duodenum.

Rigid endoscopic instruments are commonly used in the examination and surgery of joints. They are used to explore and take biopsies from a range of organs, such as the liver, the prostate, and even the ear. Commonly, they are also used to biopsy growths that require testing for malignancy. These scopes are available in a range of sizes, depending on the area to be examined.

The flexible type of endoscopic instruments are much more versatile than the rigid forms, allowing access to a greater number of places. They usually consist of a single, long piece of tubing that is inserted into the target organ or cavity, allowing the examiner a much more flexible, all-round view. This type of scope also enables diagnosis, biopsies, and treatment. There are two kinds of flexible endoscopes available, fiber-optic and video.

A fiber-optic scope has an eyepiece lens attached to the end that is inserted into the body. This allows the doctor to look directly into the cavity. There may also be a camera attached to the end of the scope, which allows pictures to be taken. Newer versions have video chips inserted into the ends, allowing images that would normally be viewed through an eyepiece to be directly transmitted onto a video screen, increasing visibility and detail.

Flexible endoscopic instruments are customized for the type of organ they are exploring. For example, colonoscopes are designed to be long and flexible enough to examine the entire colon and rectum. Like rigid scopes, doctors use them to take a series of biopsies along the way. These biopsies are then sent to a laboratory to be examined for the presence of disease.

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