Why get an endoscopic ultrasound?
An endoscopic ultrasound is a combination of technology, combining an ultrasound with an endoscope. Endoscopy is a way of looking inside the body using an endoscope, a flexible tube that has a small camera on the end of it.
The ultrasound uses sound waves that travel through tissue and are reflected back so that the machine can create an image of the organ or tissue that your doctor needs to see. It's used to diagnose a variety of diseases and ailments, including esophageal, pancreatic, stomach and rectal cancer.
One of the widely used applications of this procedure is endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration cytology. Basically, this involves a needle taking samples of tissue, tumors and lymph nodes in a minimally invasive way. Endoscopic ultrasound has also been used to drain abscesses in the abdomen, chest and pelvis.
You will be placed under some form of deep sedation. It's important that you're not moving during the procedure.
A small transducer, a wand-shaped probe, is on the tip of an endoscope. That endoscope is placed down your throat and passed through your body until your doctor reaches his or her target. Sometimes, your doctor will have to go down to your small intestine, like when your doctor needs to see your pancreas.
Your doctor might also perform fine-needle aspiration, passing a small needle into tissue or a tumor, removing enough for a sample. The sample will be sent to a lab for further evaluation.
Does it hurt?
During the ultrasound, you're asleep, so you shouldn't feel anything. Afterward, your throat might be a bit sore from the endoscope moving down your throat. Other than that, you should be OK.
What are the risk factors?
It's a fairly safe procedure if performed properly. Risks include bleeding and perforation of an organ. There's also a risk of pancreatitis if your doctor takes a sample of a mass in your pancreas. There's also a risk of tearing of the tissue wall during endoscopy.
What's the recovery time?
You should feel fine shortly after the procedure and be able to return to work the next day. Like any medical procedure, some people might recover more quickly than others.
What's the follow-up?
What happens after your ultrasound will depend on whether you need additional medical procedure after the results are analyzed by your doctor.
For example, an endoscopic ultrasound can help your doctor determine whether you're suffering from different types of cancer. Based on what's found, you might have to undergo further medical treatment.
Source: Dr. Abbas Raza, a gastroenterologist at Integris; Mary Cox, a patient at Integris who had an endoscopic ultrasound; The Mayo Clinic; National Institutes of Health; American Cancer Society.