The most common reason adults in the U.S. undergo an endoscopy is for acid reflux. The endoscopy is where a viewing tube is put into the mouth and down the throat. However, many people do not require it, according to recent advice from a professional group that specializes in internal medicine.
A recent meeting of the American College of Physicians wrote that overuse of the upper endoscopy helps to contribute to higher costs of health care without helping to improve outcomes for patients. A published study suggests that between 10% and 40% of endoscopies do not improve the health of patients.
In an endoscopy, an endoscope, a thin tube that is flexible and equipped with a light and camera is inserted by a doctor through the patient’s mouth into the esophagus, then the stomach and up to the beginning part of the small intestine.
Without a lack of evidence to support it, doctors routinely use the endoscopy to diagnose and then manage gastroesophagal reflux disease also known as GERD, which forms when acid leaks from the stomach into the patients’ esophagus.
Up to 40% of adults in the U.S. have symptoms of GERD, which is usually regurgitation and heartburn. Doctors use the endoscopy in patients with GERD usually to check for Barrett’s esophagus, a condition, which affects approximately 10% of the people who have chronic heartburn over a five-year period. Barrett’s takes place when the acid from the stomach damages the esophagus lining.
Both Barrett’s esophagus and GERD have been linked to a heightened risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a form of cancer.