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Benefits, Risks, and Alternatives

EUS provides more information than other imaging tests by providing detailed images of the digestive tract, as well as surrounding organs. The combination of endoscopy and ultrasound makes this procedure extremely effective in diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions throughout the digestive system. The ability of EUS to evaluate submucosal nodules is unmatched by other procedures, and gastrointestinal cancer staging is often done with EUS.

Complications of EUS are rare, but they are possible. Bleeding may occur at a biopsy site, but it's usually minimal and rarely requires follow-up. EUS examinations of the upper GI tract may cause a sore throat for a day or two. Other rare, but serious risks include:

  • An abnormal reaction to the sedative, including breathing or heart problems
  • Infection
  • Perforation, or a partial tearing, of the lining of the digestive tract

The risk of infection or pancreatitis is increased when the EUS procedure includes a needle biopsy.

There are other endoscopic and radiologic procedures available for diagnosing and treating GI conditions, but EUS is the most useful for evaluating the tissue layers below or outside the mucosa, or surface, layer of GI organs.

Alternatives to EUS include:

  • Colonoscopy, which uses a colonoscope to view and treat the entire colon and rectum
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which uses a sigmoidoscope to view and treat the rectum and the lower part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon
  • Barium enema, or lower GI series, which uses a series of x-rays and barium inserted into the colon as a contrast medium
  • CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, which uses computed tomography, or CT, technology to create images of the inside of the colon
  • Upper GI endoscopy, which uses an endoscope to view and treat the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum
  • Barium swallow, or upper GI series, which uses a series of x-rays and swallowed barium to act as a contrast medium
  • Abdominal ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of abdominal organs and soft tissues
  • CT scan, which uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images of organs and tissues
  • Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, which uses a combination of radio waves and magnets to create images of organs and tissues