What Are the Risks and Side Effects of an Endoscopy, and Is There an Alternative?

The risks of having an endoscopy include bleeding, infection and damage to the gastrointestinal tract, while fever, chest pain and abdominal pain are among the reported side effects, according to Mayo Clinic. Alternatives to endoscopy include CT scans and upper GI series tests, states eMedTV.

An endoscopy uses a miniature camera attached to a long, flexible tube to conduct a visual examination of the upper digestive system, explains Mayo Clinic. Endoscopy is usually a safe, outpatient procedure, but bleeding and infection may occur, especially when additional procedures such as biopsies are performed at the same time.

The risk of bleeding associated with endoscopy is low but increases when accompanied by other treatment procedures, and it may be serious enough to require blood transfusion, reports Mayo Clinic. Infections are usually minor and treatable with antibiotics. The doctor ordering the endoscopy may prescribe a preventive antibiotic before the procedure if a patient is particularly vulnerable to infection. Tearing of the esophagus or other areas of the upper digestive tract is extremely rare, but it can be serious enough to require hospitalization.

Alternatives to endoscopy usually cannot provide the same quality of information about the digestive tract as endoscopy, according to eMedTV. Upper GI series tests and CT scans use X-rays to provide visual images of the gastrointestinal tract, but do not allow the doctor to look directly at the areas under examination.