What is an endoscopy procedure like?

There are many different types of endoscopy procedures, and the experience of having one can vary a lot from one type to the next. The next table shows some of the key facts of the more common forms of endoscopy.

Type of endoscopy

Special preparation*
(usually starting the night before)

Is it usually done in an operating room?

Usual type of anesthesia†

How long it takes (estimate)

Arthroscopy

Fasting

Yes

Local and sedation

30 to 45 minutes

Bronchoscopy

Fasting

No

Local and sedation or general

30 min to 2 hours

Enteroscopy

Fasting, liquid diet and laxative/ enema if using anal entry

No

Sedation or general

45 to 90 minutes

Laryngoscopy

Fasting

No

Local or general

15 min to 1 hour

Upper endoscopy

Fasting

No

Local and sedation

15 to 30 min

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Liquid diet, laxative/enema

No

Usually none

15 to 30 min

Colonoscopy

Liquid diet, laxative/enema

No

Mild sedation

30 to 60 min

Cystoscopy

Fasting

Sometimes

Local or general

15 to 30 min

Mediastinoscopy

Fasting

Yes

General

1 to 2 hours

Thoracoscopy

Fasting

Yes

General

2 to 3 hours

Laparoscopy

Fasting

Yes

General

20 min to 1 hour

* Fasting means not eating for a certain amount of time before the procedure
† Anesthesia is the use of drugs to make you not feel pain during a procedure. There are different kinds of anesthesia:
        Local means the area the scope is passed through is numbed but you are awake.
        Sedation means you are awake, but drugs are used to make you sleepy and relaxed.
        General means drugs are used to put you into a deep sleep.


It’s important to keep in mind that some procedures might be done in more than one way. For example, bronchoscopy and laryngoscopy can be done with either a flexible or rigid scope. Local anesthesia (numbing the area) is generally used for flexible scopes, while rigid scopes often require general anesthesia (where you are given drugs to put you into a deep sleep).

People’s experiences may also vary depending on their health and what needs to be done, such as whether biopsy samples are going to be taken.

If you are going to have an endoscopy, your health care team will explain to you what will be done and what to expect before, during, and after the test. They will also tell you what you need to do to prepare for the procedure. The preparation could mean that you must fast (not eat anything) for a certain amount of time, follow a liquid diet for a certain amount of time, and/or use laxatives or enemas.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 3, 2015 Last Revised: February 23, 2015

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