Introduction to imaging:The abdomen
In the fifth part of our series, John Frank takes you through techniques for imaging the abdomen
You can study the gastrointestinal tract in a variety of ways. The bowel may be studied using x rays or endoscopically. A serious disadvantage of endoscopy is that it carries a risk of perforation of the bowel, which must be explained to the patient. You should do endoscopy under sedation, which has attached risks. Also, when studying the colon endoscopically, you may not be able to get the endoscope all the way around to the caecum, so the examination is incomplete.
The main indication for endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal tract is the suspicion of stomach pathology, which may be benign or malignant, and the procedure allows you to do biopsies or resections. But radiology allows visualisation of the whole small bowel. This may well be useful where small bowel pathology, such as malabsorption, is a problem. Pathology of the lower gastrointestinal tract may manifest as bleeding, pain, or obstruction,