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Ultrasound is safe and painless, and produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves. Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves the use of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. Ultrasound examinations do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays), thus there is no radiation exposure to the patient. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels. Ultrasound imaging is a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Ultrasound images of the musculoskeletal system provide pictures of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and soft tissue throughout the body.

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This document will give you information about an endoscopic ultrasound. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is an endoscopic ultrasound?

An endoscopic ultrasound is a procedure to look at the lining of your oesophagus (gullet), stomach and duodenum using a flexible telescope (see figure 1). The telescope has an ultrasound scanner attached to it so the endoscopist (the person doing the endoscopic ultrasound) can scan structures beneath the lining of your intestines such as your bile ducts and pancreas.

What are the benefits of an endoscopic ultrasound?

You may already have had a test that has shown that you have an abnormality. An endoscopic ultrasound can be used to get close-up scans to help your doctor to decide on the best treatment for you.

Are there any alternatives to an endoscopic ultrasound?

A CT scan can give some information about an abnormality. However, it is not as accurate as an endoscopic ultrasound. An endoscopic ultrasound is the best way of finding out more about a problem beneath the lining of your upper digestive system.

What does the procedure involve?

An endoscopic ultrasound usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

If appropriate, the endoscopist may offer you a sedative to help you to relax.

The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope (endoscope) into the back of your throat, through your oesophagus and down into your stomach. From here the endoscope will pass into your duodenum.

The endoscopist will be able to look at the lining of these organs and will be able to take ultrasound images of deeper structures.

What complications can happen?

  • Sore throat
  • Allergic reaction
  • Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
  • Damage to teeth or bridgework
  • Making a hole in your oesophagus, stomach or duodenum
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Incomplete procedure

How soon will I recover?

If you were not given a sedative, you should be able to go home straightaway.

If you were given a sedative, you will usually recover in about an hour. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.

You should be able to return to work the next day unless you are told otherwise.

The healthcare team will tell you what was found during the endoscopic ultrasound and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.


An endoscopic ultrasound is usually a safe and effective way of finding out more about a problem in the lining of your upper digestive system and in structures beneath the lining.


Author: Mr Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.