How does an endoscope work?

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How does an endoscope work?
(National Cancer Institute AV-8000-0286 / Linda Bartlett (photographer))

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Overview

An endoscope is a tool used by doctors to explore the inside of a person's body. It is a valuable tool for diagnosing illnesses. There are two main types of endoscopes--physician guided and capsule. The exploratory procedure performed with an endoscope is called an endoscopy.

Physician Guided Endoscope

The physician guided endoscope is a small flexible telescope that is guided by a physician through an opening in a person's body. Light is directed through a tube inside of the endoscope to illuminate the inside of the patient's body. The light retracts back through another tube in the endoscope, bouncing off mirrors, to make the interior of the person's body viewable to the doctor. Depending on the set-up of the endoscope, the doctor views the patient's body through an eyepiece attached to the endoscope or by looking at a video monitor that is attached to the endoscope.

Capsule Endoscope

A capsule endoscope is the size of a medication capsule and contains a tiny camera. It is swallowed by the patient. As the capsule endoscope travels through the patient's digestive system, it takes two pictures a second. The images are transmitted from the endoscope wirelessly to a transmitter worn by the patient. The endoscope is excreted with the patient's bowel movement. After the capsule endoscope is excreted, the doctor downloads the images off the transmitter and views them on a computer.

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