The endoscope is clearly one of the most important medical advances (among many) that came out of the twentieth century. However, due to high equipment costs these devices have been virtually absent in veterinary hospitals until relatively recently. As it has been doing for decades in human medicine, endoscopy and subsequently, endosurgery are beginning to transform the ways we diagnose and treat numerous disease conditions in our pets.
Endoscopy is the visualization of internal body structures through the use of an endoscope. It enables veterinarians and physicians the ability to peer into body cavities and examine internal organs, joints, and spaces otherwise only accessible via more invasive surgery. Endoscopes are instruments that use fiber optics and lens systems to provide lighting and visualization. They are usually connected to a camera that transmits the images to a monitor in the surgical suite. There are seemingly countless types of endoscopes but they can all be separated into two broad categories: rigid and flexible. Which to use depends on the medical procedure being performed.
The real take home message with endoscopy is that it is minimally invasive when compared to the traditional surgical approach. This means less post-operative discomfort and significantly shorter recovery times. This approach typically carries far less risk then the comparable surgical option. In addition, the risks are usually far outweighed by the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the procedure.
Endoscopy is also very useful in collecting samples for histopathology (biopsy testing) and can even guide in therapy and repair.