What are the Differences Between Colonoscopies and Endoscopies?


Have you experienced unexplained abdominal pain or digestive health conditions? An endoscopic procedure can serve as a minimally invasive option to assess the gastrointestinal (GI) concerns you're suffering from. Our gastrointestinal doctors in Arizona utilize them to observe the various parts of the digestive system. Such options help decrease the need for more intensive procedures and long healing times.

An endoscopy is a commonly performed procedure that assists with the diagnosis of conditions impacting the esophagus, stomach, and abdomen. One of the most common endoscopic procedures is a colonoscopy, which assists in catching and reducing the chance of colorectal cancer.

How do endoscopies vs. colonoscopies differ, and how can these endoscopic procedures serve your health? Continue reading for additional details about these exams offered at Arizona Digestive Health. Our skilled team wants to help people throughout Arizona get the care they need for improved gastrointestinal health.

What are the primary differences between an endoscopy and a colonoscopy?

Although an endoscope (which is a long, slender, and bendable tube housing a camera and light) is used to obtain high-quality images for both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, there are a few differences between these two exams.

If the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract needs to be evaluated, an upper endoscopy (often referred to as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD) is often ordered. With this approach, the endoscope is positioned in your mouth and travels beyond your throat into the esophagus, stomach, and small bowel. Comparatively, a colonoscopy may be conducted when the lower part of the digestive system needs to be examined. During a colonoscopy procedure, the endoscope is placed in the rectum and advanced into the large intestine (colon).

Another difference includes how you prepare for the procedures. When having a colonoscopy, you’ll likely be advised to only drink clear liquids for 24 hours before your appointment. Instructions on how to clear your GI system of stool will be given and could include the use of cleansing solutions or laxative products. This enables easy viewing of the intestines and rectum.

Prepping for an upper endoscopy procedure is not as involved. It's important to avoid having any food and beverages for about six hours before the exam and stop taking certain blood-thinning medications as recommended by your doctor. If you'd like to learn more about the differences between colonoscopies vs. endoscopies, request a visit with our Arizona Digestive Health team to have your questions answered.

How is an endoscopy performed?

With an endoscopy procedure, a long, flexible tube-like device (endoscope) is positioned into your mouth and moved through the throat and esophagus until it reaches the small intestine. If required, special tools can be attached to the endoscope device to help address a variety of concerns. These tools can collect tissue samples, retrieve food caught in the upper gastrointestinal tract, or open a stricture (narrowed area).

Reasons for requiring an endoscopy can vary according to your needs. In the event you develop symptoms that affect your health, our endoscopy specialists in Arizona may recommend scheduling this exam. An endoscopy can enable our team to determine the treatment necessary for your ailment. In many instances, an endoscopy procedure can be a helpful tool to use if you have one or more of the following:

  • Long-term heartburn or chest pain
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Persistent bowel changes (like diarrhea or constipation)
  • Blood in the stool

How does a colonoscopy work?

During a colonoscopy exam, an endoscope is carefully placed within the rectum and advanced into the large intestine. This device sends video images to a monitor so your physician can assess the large intestine. During the course of the exam, tissue biopsies can be taken to determine if cancer cells are present, and precancerous growths (polyps) can be extracted.

It's imperative to schedule a colonoscopy screening if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or when you reach the age of 45. Colonoscopies can also be scheduled if you experience the following signs or symptoms on a regular basis:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Anal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Thin or narrow stools
  • Cramps

Get relief from GI symptoms with endoscopic solutions

An endoscopic approach can allow your healthcare practitioner to detect and address GI issues like intestinal blockages, tumors, unexplained abdominal pain, and other problems. When you schedule a consultation at Arizona Digestive Health, skilled care for digestive symptoms is within reach. We look forward to helping you get relief from digestive concerns and intestinal disorders. Contact one of our Arizona gastroenterology locations today to schedule an appointment.