A healthy gut is the key to so many aspects of our well-being, emotional as well as physical so taking care of it is vital. Endoscopy - looking into the digestive system with a tiny camera - is a diagnostic tool.
“The term covers inspection of the stomach, which we call gastroscopy, and of the bowel, a different procedure known as colonoscopy,” explains Dr Voi Shim Wong, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Highgate Private Hospital, where he is also chairman of the Medical Advisory Board.
While it sounds a little scary, looking into the body is a safe, non-surgical procedure which in some cases can treat as well as diagnose certain conditions. Technical innovations have meant we can now also offer virtual endoscopy - using a camera which can be swallowed, or carrying out the inspection with a CT scan – these are alternatives to more traditional methods and all have their pros and cons. If you are considering any of these, discussion with your doctor around which is most suitable for you and your symptoms is cruicial.
During a gastroscopy, a tiny video camera attached to a small, highly flexible tube- is passed through the mouth into the stomach. This is the route of choice for investigating symptoms of the upper digestive tract from difficulty swallowing and persistent heartburn or indigestion to vomiting blood, explains Dr. Wong. Colonoscopy, in which the camera is passed into the bowel via the rectum, can reveal the cause of a variety of other symptoms including persistent diarrhoea or bleeding from the back passage.
“GP’s may refer patients urgently for these procedures if cancer is suspected, but even a two-week wait can cause anxiety,” adds Dr. Wong. “Many patients prefer to get their tests the next day - and if they come to Highgate Private Hospital they can be sure of seeing a Consultant, which is not always the case with an NHS hospital visit.”
Comfort is also assured with a private room, he points out, “and the risk of infection is negligible compared with NHS hospitals which anyone can walk into.” While gentle treatment is also guaranteed at Highgate Private Hospital, sedation is always offered (although many patients decline the offer of sedation in order to be able to leave hospital faster without their activities restricted for the rest of the day). Procedures typically take 15 to 60 minutes to perform, and convenience is the watchword, with evening and weekend appointments available six days a week.