A colonoscopy and endoscopy refer to virtually the same type of procedure, but the difference is the part of the body being examined. A colonoscopy is simply a specialized type of an endoscopy. Both are methods of looking inside the body with a small tube called an endoscope, but a colonoscopy focuses specifically on examining the colon.
In both a colonoscopy and endoscopy, the rigid or flexible tube used in the procedure is called an endoscope. The endoscope may have a camera on the end and some means of lighting the internal organs or paths taken by the tube. In addition, it has a built-in means of transmitting the image back to the doctor or technician evaluating the colonoscopy and endoscopy.
The goal of both procedures is to retrieve as much information as possible while being as minimally invasive as possible. In many cases, surgery can be avoided through the use of one of these techniques, or the procedures may reveal valuable information that dictates that surgery is the only option to cure whatever is ailing the patient. There are minor risks involved in a colonoscopy and endoscopy. These include soreness at the site of entry, internal or external infections, and occasional side effects of sedation.
In a colonoscopy, an endoscope is inserted through the anus to examine the colon and small bowel. The endoscope will illuminate the inside of the body and allow for the diagnosis of ulcerations or polyps within the colon. The procedure also allows for the biopsy of suspect lesions in the colon. In some cases, the lesions can be removed altogether.
An endoscopy in general can have many different applications. One of the most common is a gastrointestinal tract (GI) endoscopy. The GI endoscopy can examine the stomach, esophagus, duodenum, small intestine, large intestine (colonoscopy) and bile duct. The anus and rectum can also both be magnified and examined using an endoscope.
The respiratory tract, ears, urinary tracts, and the female reproductive system are also common targets for endoscopies. While pregnant, an endoscope can be used to examine the amnion (called an amnioscopy) and the fetus itself (fetoscopy). These procedures typically do not require any type of incision, but the examination of some organs or closed cavities may require a small surgical cut. Such is the case with inspection of the pelvic or abdominal cavity (laparoscopy), a joint (arthroscopy), or organs of the chest (mediastinoscopy or thoracoscopy).