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Endoscopic Ultrasound: What it Is and When You Might Need One

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Ultrasounds are most commonly associated with pregnancy, but an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a minimally invasive technique used in very different situations. Here’s a quick run-down of what this technique involves and a few instances in which your doctor might order one.

What is it?

Like the ultrasounds used to produce images of fetuses, an endoscopic ultrasound bounces sound waves off structures then recaptures the sound waves and uses them to construct black and white images.

An endoscopic ultrasound is unique in that the ultrasound probe is attached to an endoscope: a thin tube with a camera and light that can be passed through the mouth and into the throat, stomach and esophagus.

Because the endoscope places the ultrasound probe so close to internal structures, it is able to produce highly detailed images of internal organs that surpass the quality of imaging produced by CT scans, MRIs and externally performed ultrasounds.

When is it used?

Endoscopic ultrasounds can serve a variety of purposes in several different situations. Here are a few ways your doctor might use one:

• To “stage” cancers

The extreme detail that an EUS achieves allows doctors to determine which tissues and organs a given cancer has spread to and how deeply it has penetrated these tissues. This information allows doctors to determine what stage the cancer is in, which dictates whether surgical excision is possible and other crucial treatment considerations.

Currently, EUS is used to “stage” cancers of the lungs, stomach, pancreas, rectum and colon.

• To examine abnormalities and collect biopsies

While a CT scan or other imaging tool might reveal an abnormality, an EUS provides a level of detail that tells a great deal more. Using an EUS, a doctor can investigate tumors, lumps, bumps, cysts and legions located on the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, stomach lining or bile duct to provide a firm diagnosis.

A doctor can also use EUS to investigate further if a patient has been experiencing problems like chronic pancreatitis but no abnormalities have been identified yet.

In the case of pseudocysts, the endoscope can be used to drain the cysts. In other instances, the endoscope can be used to perform a fine needle aspiration and collect a biopsy of the tissue in question. Once tests are performed on the tissue sample, doctors can diagnose and effectively treat the underlying problem.

• To understand fecal incontinence and pinpoint causes

At one point, examination of the sphincter was limited to techniques like anal manometry and electromyography which failed to provide structural information about the anorectal area.

Endoscopic ultrasound is tolerated better because it doesn’t require the insertion of needles in the muscles and it provides better information about the structural integrity of the sphincters – key information for treating fecal incontinence.

If you need an endoscopic ultrasound or another out-patient gastrointestinal operation, The Endoscopy Center has experts that can help. For more information, visit http://www.endo-world.com or call (850)-474-8988.