May 05, 2020

What’s the Difference between an Upper Endoscopy vs a Colonoscopy?

If you’ll be having a procedure to assess the condition of the upper or lower end of your digestive tract, it’s important to understand the difference between endoscopy and colonoscopy. Typically, when people use the term “endoscopy,” they’re referring to an “upper endoscopy,” which is a procedure performed through the mouth to examine the upper part of the digestive system. A colonoscopy is a procedure performed through the anus to examine the lower part of the system. Although both allow doctors to view the inside of the gastrointestinal tract, they’re performed for different purposes. This article provides information on an endoscopy vs. a colonoscopy.

Upper Endoscopy vs. Colonoscopy: Exploring the Differences

What’s the difference between an endoscopy and a colonoscopy? As noted above, one of the main differences is the entry point for the flexible tube called an endoscope. The other difference is what areas are examined. An upper endoscopy is performed to assess the condition of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. A colonoscopy focuses on the lower bowel and rectum.

Preparing for an Upper Endoscopy vs. Colonoscopy

In advance of your endoscopy or colonoscopy, you should arrange for a ride home after the procedure, as the medications you take may leave you drowsy. You should also tell your doctor about any medications you take.

To prepare for an endoscopy, you need to have no food or drink for six hours before the procedure. This gives your stomach time to empty before the procedure, which provides your doctor with the best view of the upper part of your digestive tract. To prepare for a colonoscopy, you can only have clear liquids for 24 hours before the procedure. You’ll also need to consume a special bowel preparation liquid that flushes all stool out of your system so your doctor can get a good look at your colon and rectum. In some cases, a blood test is required before an endoscopy or a colonoscopy.


Before your procedure begins, your doctor will describe it to you and have you sign a consent form. Here again, you should tell your doctor about any medication you take and should also mention any allergies you have.

In an endoscopy, your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax and will spray a local anesthetic in your throat. You’ll lie on your side and your doctor will move the endoscope through your mouth to your esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The device doesn’t affect your breathing. Most people are only mildly uncomfortable during the procedure.

In a colonoscopy, your doctor will probably give you a sedative to prevent any discomfort. Then they’ll have you lie on your side or back and will insert the endoscope through your anus and into your rectum and large intestine. You may feel mild cramping, pressure or bloating during the procedure.

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What Each Test Diagnoses

An endoscopy can be used to see abnormal growths, ulcers, hiatal hernias, inflammation, and signs of cancer in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Your doctor may prescribe the test if you have unexplained abdominal pain or nausea, trouble swallowing, gastrointestinal bleeding, or unexpected weight loss.

The primary use of a colonoscopy is for colon cancer screening. People over 50 should have a colonoscopy every 10 years or more often as directed by their doctor. Screening should start earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer. A colonoscopy may also be prescribed if you have persistent abdominal pain, blood in your stool, unexplained weight loss, or fatigue along with trouble breathing.

Contact Baptist Health to Learn More

Upper endoscopies and colonoscopies are common procedures that provide your doctor with important information about your digestive tract. If one of these procedures is prescribed for you, rest assured that they’re relatively quick and painless, and will help your doctor identify and address your ailment.

If you have questions about an upper endoscopy or a colonoscopy, contact the Baptist Health team to schedule an appointment.

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