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Endoscopic Ultrasound

Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) combines endoscopy and ultrasound in order to obtain images and information about the digestive tract and the surrounding tissue and organs. Endoscopy refers to the procedure of inserting a long flexible tube via the mouth or the rectum to visualize the digestive tract whereas ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures inside the body such as ovaries, uterus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, aorta and lymph nodes.

Traditional ultrasound sends sound waves to the organ(s) and back with a transducer placed on the skin overlying the organ(s) of interest. images obtained by traditional ultrasound are not always of high quality. In EUS a small ultrasound transducer is installed on the tip of the endoscope. By inserting the endoscope into the upper or the lower digestive tract one can obtain high quality ultrasound images of the organs inside the body.

Placing the transducer on the tip of an endoscope allows the transducer to get close to the organs inside the body. Because of the proximity of the EUS transducer to the organ(s) of interest, the images obtained are frequently more accurate and more detailed than the ones obtained by traditional ultrasound. The EUS also can obtain information about the layers of the intestinal wall as well as adjacent areas such as lymph nodes and the blood vessels.

Other uses of EUS include studying the flow of blood inside blood vessels using Doppler ultrasound, and to obtain tissue samples by passing a special needle, under ultrasound guidance, into enlarged lymph nodes or suspicious tumors. The tissue or cells obtained by the needle can be examined by a pathologist under a microscope. The process of obtaining tissue with a thin needle is called fine needle aspiration (FNA).

When is EUS needed?

Being a relatively new diagnostic tool the uses for EUS are still being developed and, presently, it is being utilized in some of the following situations:

  • Staging of cancers of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas and rectum.
  • Staging of lung cancer.
  • Evaluating chronic pancreatitis and other masses or cysts of the pancreas.
  • Studying bile duct abnormalities including stones in the bile duct or gallbladder, or bile duct, gallbladder, or liver tumors.
  • Studying the muscles of the lower rectum and anal canal in evaluating reasons for fecal incontinence.
  • Studying 'submucosal lesions' such as nodules or 'bumps' that may be hiding in the intestinal wall covered by normal appearing lining of the intestinal tract.

Staging of cancer is becoming an important use of EUS. The prognosis of a cancer victim is related to the stage of the cancer at the time of cancer detection. For example, early stage colon cancer refers to cancer confined to the inner surface of the colon before it is spread to adjacent tissues or distant organs. Therefore early stage colon cancer can be completely resected with good chances for cure. However, if cancer is detected at later stages, the cancer tissues have already penetrated the colon wall and invaded neighboring organs and lymph nodes, or have spread to distant organs such as liver and lungs. Complete surgical excision becomes highly unlikely. EUS can provide information regarding the depth of penetration of the cancer and spread of cancer to adjacent tissues and lymph nodes, information useful for staging.

Why is EUS used for patients with cancer?

EUS helps your doctor determine the extent of spread of certain cancers of the digestive and respiratory systems. EUS allows your doctor to accurately assess the cancer’s depth and whether it has spread to adjacent lymph glands or nearby vital structures, such as major blood vessels. In some patients, EUS can be used to obtain a needle biopsy of a lump or lesion to help your doctor determine the proper treatment.

How should I prepare for EUS?

For EUS of the upper gastrointestinal tract, you should have nothing to eat or drink, usually for six hours before the examination. Your doctor will tell you when to start this fasting and whether it is advisable to take your regular prescription medications.

For EUS of the rectum or colon, your doctor will instruct you to either consume a colonic cleansing solution or to follow a clear liquid diet combined with laxatives or enemas prior to the examination. The procedure might have to be rescheduled if you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

What risks are there?

When FNA is performed complications occur more often but are still uncommon (0.5-1.0%). Passing a needle through the gut wall may cause minor bleeding. If unusual bleeding occurs, the patient may be hospitalized briefly for observation, but blood transfusions are rarely needed. Infection is another rare complication of FNA. Infection can occur during aspiration of fluid from cysts and antibiotics may be given before the procedure. If the FNA is performed on the pancreas, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can rarely occur. Pancreatitis calls for hospitalization, observation, rest, IV fluid, and medication for abdominal pain. It usually resolves spontaneously in a few days.

What happens after EUS?

If you received sedatives, you will be monitored in the recovery area until most of the sedative medication’s effects have worn off. If you had an upper EUS, your throat might be a little sore. You might feel bloated because of the air and water that were introduced during the examination.

You’ll be able to eat after you leave the procedure area, unless you’re instructed otherwise.

Your doctor generally can inform you of the preliminary results of the procedure that day, but the results of some tests, including biopsies, may take several days. (information obtained from asge.org)

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, is a specialized technique used to study the bile ducts, pancreatic duct and gallbladder. Ducts are drainage routes; the drainage channels from the liver are called bile or biliary ducts. The pancreatic duct is the drainage channel from the pancreas.

How is ERCP performed?

During ERCP, your doctor will pass an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus and stomach into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube that lets your doctor see inside your bowels. After your doctor sees the common opening to the ducts from the liver and pancreas, called the major duodenal papilla, your doctor will pass a narrow plastic tube called a catheter through the endoscope and into the ducts. Your doctor will inject a contrast material (dye) into the pancreatic or biliary ducts and will take X-rays.

What preparation is required?

You should fast for at least six hours (and preferably overnight) before the procedure to make sure you have an empty stomach, which is necessary for the best examination. You should talk to your doctor about medications you take regularly and any allergies you have to medications or to intravenous contrast material (dye). Inform your doctor about medications you’re taking, particularly aspirin products, arthritis medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners, such as warfarin or heparin), clopidogrel or insulin. Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you have heart or lung conditions or other major diseases which might prevent or impact the decision to conduct endoscopy.

What can I expect during ERCP?

An anesthesiologist will administer sedation to keep you comfortable during the procedure. Some patients also receive antibiotics before the procedure. You will lie on your abdomen (belly) on an X-ray table. The instrument does not interfere with breathing, but you might feel a bloating sensation because of the air introduced through the instrument.

What are possible complications of ERCP?

ERCP is a well-tolerated procedure when performed by doctors who are specially trained and experienced in the technique. Although complications requiring hospitalization can occur, they are uncommon. Complications can include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), infections, bowel perforation and bleeding. Some patients can have an adverse reaction to the sedative used. Sometimes the procedure cannot be completed for technical reasons.

What can I expect after ERCP?

If you have ERCP as an outpatient, you will be observed for complications until most of the effects of the medications have worn off before being sent home. You might experience bloating or pass gas because of the air introduced during the examination. You can resume your usual diet unless you are instructed otherwise.

Someone must accompany you home from the procedure because of the sedatives used during the examination. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, the sedatives can affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day. (information obtained from asge.org)
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