What is endoscopic ultrasound?
Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) combines endoscopy and ultrasound to create images of the digestive tract and its surrounding organs and tissues. Endoscopy uses a long, thin tube, inserted into either the patient's mouth or rectum, that contains a camera (endoscope) to see inside the body. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. With these two technologies, your doctor can create more detailed images of the digestive tract. Endoscopic ultrasound is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure.
When does your doctor order an endoscopic ultrasound?
EUS is ordered to get a more detailed examination of your digestive tract, including your esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum, and for organs near the digestive tract, including the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder. It can help your doctor diagnose causes of abdominal pain or abnormal weight loss. For patients with cancer, EUS helps determine the extent of the disease’s development.
EUS may also be used for:
- Diagnosing cancers in the digestive tract (may involve tissue sampling)
- Evaluating pancreatic diseases
- Diagnosing problems in the bile ducts and gall bladder
- Characterizing lesions or bumps on the walls of the intestines
What are the risks of endoscopic ultrasound?
It is very rare that there are any complications during or after an endoscopic ultrasound. According to the National Pancreas Foundation the risk of complication is less than 1%. Because the patient is sedated, there is risk for cardiac or pulmonary complications associated with the use of anesthesia. In a very few cases, patients may have bleeding or infection caused by a tear or puncture to the GI tract. If a patient is at risk for infection the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.
How should I prepare for an endoscopic ultrasound?
Your digestive tract needs to be empty for this procedure, so your doctor will ask that you not eat for eight hours beforehand. You will typically stop blood thinning medication before the procedure. If you do take any blood thinning medications, please check with your healthcare provider and the office of the physician performing the procedure for specific instructions about stopping them.
What happens during an endoscopic ultrasound?
Before the procedure you will be asked to lie down on your left side. An IV is inserted into your hand or arm to deliver sedative drugs. The endoscope is then inserted into your mouth or rectum and moved through the intestinal tract. To monitor your vital signs throughout the procedure:
- A blood pressure cuff is placed on your arm
- Your oxygen is monitored through a device placed on your finger
- An EKG monitors your heart rate
The procedure usually lasts 20 to 45 minutes. Because you will be sedated, you should feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure.
Results and Follow-Up
What happens after an endoscopic ultrasound?
After the procedure you will be taken to a recovery area where you will wake up from the sedative and rest. Doctors will continue monitoring your vital signs during this period. The recovery period can take between 20 minutes to an hour.
Before you are sent home the physician will discuss the results of the EUS with you, discuss what medications you will be taking, and when you can resume your daily routine. A responsible person must drive you home, so you need to arrange your ride ahead of time.