When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the message quickly became “stay safe, stay home.” And many people took that advice, cancelling everything from weddings and graduation celebrations to vacations and smaller trips to visit nearby loved ones. Perhaps most perilous among cancellations, though, were routine doctor checkups and health screenings. Perilous because with many medical issues, the sooner they’re caught, the more likely a person is to come through them okay. The longer issues go unnoticed or untreated, the greater the risk for long-term health concerns or worse. With the pandemic apparently subsiding, it’s more important than ever to catch up on these types of care. One of the evaluations you may wind up needing to have could involve a procedure called an endoscopic ultrasound.
“Endoscopic ultrasound, or EUS, is a minimally invasive procedure combining endoscopy and ultrasonography to assess digestive or gastrointestinal diseases; pancreatic diseases; biliary diseases; and lung diseases,” said Blount Memorial gastroenterologist Dr. Sirisha Jasti. “In this procedure, a special endoscope uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the lining and walls of your digestive tract, your chest, nearby organs such as your pancreas and liver, and your lymph nodes. An important advantage of EUS is its ability to guide a needle to sample lesions that are too small to be identified by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It is also an alternative to exploratory surgery in certain treatments, such as draining pseudocysts,” she explained. “The technical procedure of EUS for the gastrointestinal tract includes selecting a site, advancing the needle, aspirating the sample, and preparing and assessing the specimen,” she added.
And EUS is effective in identifying a wide variety of medical concerns. “It may help in the evaluation of cancer of the esophagus, lung, pancreas or stomach, and ampullary and rectal cancers,” Jasti said. “It also can aid in determining the extent, or stage, of cancer, if present and whether the cancer has spread, or metastasized, to your lymph nodes or other organs. EUS can help your physician evaluate the reasons for pancreatitis and determine if pancreatic cysts can turn into cancer. It’s also helpful in assessing how deeply a tumor penetrates your abdominal wall in esophageal, gastric, rectal, pancreatic and lung cancers. EUS also may help in the evaluation of other issues such as lymphoma, Barrett's esophagus, neuroendocrine tumors, bile duct stones and sarcoidosis,” she explained. “It can guide drainage of pseudocysts and other abnormal collections of fluid in the abdomen, and permits precise targeting for delivering medication directly into the pancreas, liver and other organs,” she added.
“EUS is performed on an outpatient basis and is well-tolerated by most people,” Jasti continued. “Occasionally, complications such as hypotension, can occur due to the effects of the procedural sedation. Others can be due to the endoscopy itself or the sampling procedure. However, reports of complications are generally rare,” she explained. “You can reduce your risk of complications by carefully following your doctor's instructions when for preparing for EUS,” she added.
For more information about endoscopic ultrasound procedures or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jasti, call Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Gastroenterology at 865-980-5060.