The Difference Between an Endoscopy and a Colonoscopy


Posted By Author on June 29, 2023

You’ve probably heard the terms “endoscopy” and “colonoscopy,” whether in passing or from your own doctor, but what is the difference? Endoscopies and colonoscopies each have their own role in the GI world, each being used to take a closer look at the different parts of your GI tract. 

Here at Charleston GI, we’re going to help you understand the difference and what each procedure can do for your gut health. Read on to learn more about endoscopies and colonoscopies!

gi tract examination, endoscopy vs colonoscopy

What is an Endoscopy? 

Endoscopies are a nonsurgical procedure that takes a look at your gastrointestinal tract. An endoscopy procedure utilizes an instrument called an endoscope, which is simply a long, flexible tube with a camera attached on the end. The endoscopy provides your doctor with images of your throat, esophagus, stomach, rectum, and colon. 

Endoscopies are traditionally used to examine the upper gastrointestinal tract, which is why you’ll commonly hear the term “upper endoscopy.” An upper endoscopy is when the endoscope is inserted in your mouth, and then moves through your upper GI tract. An endoscopy is typically quick and easy, and you will be under anesthesia for an endoscopy. In some cases, your doctor may take biopsies during an endoscopy for diagnosis.

What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy procedure also utilizes an endoscope, but in this case, it is used to examine your colon, rectum, and large intestine more closely. The endoscope is inserted into your rectum and allows your doctor to view changes in tissue, remove any polyps, or take biopsies for diagnosis. 

Colonoscopies are incredibly useful for detecting colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps. Just like with any other endoscopy procedure, you will be sedated. It is also quick, simple, and well-tolerated by most patients.

The Difference   

Colonoscopies and endoscopies each serve a similar purpose when it comes to screening, treating, and diagnosing, but there are a couple key differences that set these procedures apart. 

  • Examination area: Colonoscopies are more used to examine the lower GI tract where endoscopies are used to examine the upper GI tract.
  • Preparation: For an endoscopy, patients only have to fast for approximately six to eight hours before the procedure. Colonoscopies require a more thorough bowel preparation, which begins the night before your procedure. Preparation for a colonoscopy is more comprehensive to ensure your colon is completely clean for a successful examination. 

How to Prepare 

For a colonoscopy, a thorough preparation is very important for the success of the procedure. Colonoscopy prep begins a few days before your appointment. You’ll start by eating a low-fiber diet for a couple of days, then switch to a clear, liquid diet the day before your appointment.

In the evening before your appointment, you’ll take a laxative formula to clear your bowels out, which will lead to quite a bit of time in the bathroom. This formula is what helps ensure that your large intestine is cleaned out, providing your doctor with a clear view to see what they need to see. 

Endoscopy prep is much less rigorous than colonoscopy prep. For endoscopies, you won’t have to prepare your bowels for the procedure. You’ll be instructed by your doctor to fast before your appointment, typically for six to eight hours prior. This fasting period will help make sure your upper GI tract is clear for your procedure. 

Questions? Contact Charleston GI Today!

Understanding the differences between an endoscopy and colonoscopy is easy when you have the support and guidance of our helpful team here at Charleston GI!

Our board-certified gastroenterologists are experienced in treating a wide variety of conditions, and they’re here to help navigate all of your GI concerns. We have all the information you need to live comfortably and answer all your questions about gastrointestinal health.

We have four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from, in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads.

Charleston GI doctors are ready 5 days a week to offer you medical relief. There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today, with Charleston GI!