Endoscopy can be used along with other tests to confirm a diagnosis of cirrhosis and help a doctor decide what treatments might be best.

An endoscopy is done by inserting a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end inside your gastrointestinal (GI) tract to look for abnormalities such as tumors or bleeding.

An endoscopy can’t directly show cirrhosis in the liver. But an upper endoscopy can help diagnose cirrhosis by looking for other signs of liver disease, such as esophageal varices, which are dilated veins in your esophagus that happen when you have high blood pressure in the portal vein that drains blood from your stomach and pancreas into your liver.

Read on to learn more about how an endoscopy can be used to help diagnose cirrhosis, what you can expect from an endoscopy procedure, and about other tests that might be used to diagnose cirrhosis.

An endoscopy may be used to look for signs of cirrhosis or other liver conditions such as liver cancer.

An endoscopy with ultrasound imaging can also help a doctor get images of both inside and outside your GI tract. This can help diagnose cirrhosis and other liver conditions by allowing a doctor to look at liver tissues from above your skin.

The main diagnostic tests for cirrhosis include:

Along with an ultrasound, other diagnostic tests might include:

An endoscopy might also be done as an alternative to a liver biopsy.

Here’s what to expect from an endoscopy for cirrhosis:

  1. You’ll likely need to fast for up to 8 hours before the procedure.
  2. When you arrive at the facility, you’ll be asked to change into a gown and lie on your side on a table.
  3. The doctor or healthcare professional performing the endoscopy may use a spray or other substance to numb your throat, insert a mouthguard, and give you intravenous (IV) general anesthetic to help keep you in a state of nonfeeling and unawareness during the procedure.
  4. They’ll slowly insert a tube with a light and camera through your throat into your esophagus, which will show a video on a screen.
  5. The’ll examine the inside of your esophagus and stomach for signs of varices. These usually look like bright red spots or streaks.
  6. The doctor may tie bands around the varices in your esophagus to cut off blood flow to them and stop them from bleeding.
  7. For varices in the stomach, they might perform a sclerotherapy, using a glue-like material to harden blood.
  8. They’ll slowly remove the tube from your esophagus and allow you to recover for about 2 hours. You’ll be able to go home the same day.

Imagery from the endoscopy may show varices in your esophagus that are signs of cirrhosis.

A doctor can also get results from a liver biopsy if they do an endoscopic ultrasound. This can help confirm a diagnosis of cirrhosis along with ultrasound images that can show abnormalities in the liver’s shape or thickness related to cirrhosis.

A liver biopsy is the most accurate test for cirrhosis because it allows a doctor to check actual liver tissue for damaged liver cells.

A liver biopsy isn’t always used as a first-line diagnostic tool because it’s often done through the jugular vein and has risks.

But it’s often used along with other tests to diagnose how advanced cirrhosis is and what other systems in your body might be affected when your liver isn’t working well.

An endoscopy can identify other liver difficulties, such as:

Here are some frequently asked questions about endoscopy for liver issues.

Can endoscopy detect liver cancer?

A traditional endoscopy isn’t always able to identify liver cancer that hasn’t spread beyond your liver.

But a similar procedure called endoscopic ultrasound along with fine-needle aspiration (which takes a sample using a thin needle) can help medical professionals get tissue samples from your liver and areas around it to check for the presence of cancer cells.

What organs can be seen in an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is typically used to look at organs in your upper or lower GI tract, including:

An endoscopy isn’t a first-line diagnostic tool for cirrhosis. But it can be used alongside other tests to confirm whether you have cirrhosis and help a doctor decide what treatments might be best for your liver and other systems in your body.