An upper gastrointestinal (or GI) endoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine, called the duodenum. The esophagus is the tube that carries food to your stomach. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube that bends. It is called an endoscope, or scope.
The doctor puts the tip of the scope in your mouth and gently moves it down your throat. The scope is a flexible video camera. The doctor looks at a monitor (like a TV set or a computer screen) as he or she moves the scope. A doctor may do this procedure to look for ulcers, tumors, infection, or bleeding. It also can be used to look for signs of acid backing up into your esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. The doctor can use the scope to take a sample of tissue for study (a biopsy). The doctor also can use the scope to take out growths or stop bleeding.
An upper GI endoscopy may be done to:
Endoscopy may also be done to:
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
Before the test, you will put on a hospital gown. If you are wearing dentures, jewelry, contact lenses, or glasses, remove them. For your own comfort, empty your bladder before the test.
Blood tests may be done to check for a low blood count or clotting problems. Your throat may be numbed with an anesthetic spray, gargle, or lozenge. This is to relax your gag reflex and make it easier to insert the endoscope into your throat.
You may get a pain medicine and a sedative through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm or hand. These medicines reduce pain and will make you feel relaxed and drowsy during the test. You may not remember much about the actual test.
You will be asked to lie on your left side with your head bent slightly forward. A mouth guard may be placed in your mouth to protect your teeth from the endoscope (scope). Then the lubricated tip of the scope will be guided into your mouth. Your doctor may gently press your tongue out of the way. You may be asked to swallow to help move the tube along. The scope is no thicker than many foods you swallow. It will not cause problems with breathing.
After the scope is in your esophagus, your head will be tilted upright. This makes it easier for the scope to slide down your esophagus. During the procedure, try not to swallow unless you are asked to. Someone may remove the saliva from your mouth with a suction device. Or you can allow the saliva to drain from the side of your mouth.
Your doctor will look through an eyepiece or watch a screen while he or she slowly moves the endoscope. The doctor will check the walls of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Air or water may be injected through the scope to help clear a path for the scope or to clear its lens. Suction may be applied to remove air or secretions.
A camera attached to the scope takes pictures. The doctor may also insert tiny tools such as forceps, clips, and swabs through the scope to collect tissue samples (biopsy), remove growths, or stop bleeding.
To make it easier for your doctor to see different parts of your upper GI tract, someone may change your position or apply gentle pressure to your belly. After the exam is done, the scope is slowly pulled out.
You will feel groggy after the test until the medicine wears off. This usually takes a few hours. Many people report that they remember very little of the test because of the sedative given before and during the test.
If your throat was numbed before the test, don't eat or drink until your throat is no longer numb and your gag reflex has returned to normal.
The test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. But it may take longer, depending on what is found and what is done during the test.
You may notice a brief, sharp pain when the intravenous (IV) needle is placed in a vein in your arm. The local anesthetic sprayed into your throat usually tastes slightly bitter. It will make your tongue and throat feel numb and swollen. Some people report that they feel as if they can't breathe at times because of the tube in their throat. But this is a false sensation caused by the anesthetic. There is always plenty of breathing space around the tube in your mouth and throat. Remember to relax and take slow, deep breaths.
During the test, you may feel very drowsy and relaxed from the sedative and pain medicines. You may have some gagging, nausea, bloating, or mild cramping in your belly as the tube is moved. If you have pain, alert your doctor with an agreed-upon signal or a tap on the arm. Even though you won't be able to talk during the procedure, you can still communicate.
The suction machine that's used to remove secretions may be noisy, but it doesn't cause pain. The removal of biopsy samples is also painless.
Problems, or complications, are rare. There is a slight risk that your esophagus, stomach, or upper small intestine will get a small tear in it. If this happens, you may need surgery to fix it. There is also a slight chance of infection after the test.
Bleeding may also happen from the test or if a tissue sample (biopsy) is taken. But the bleeding usually stops on its own without treatment. If you vomit during the test and some of the vomit enters your lungs, aspiration pneumonia is a possible risk.
An irregular heartbeat may happen during the test. But it almost always goes away on its own without treatment.
The risk of problems is higher in people who have serious heart disease. It's also higher in older adults and people who are frail or physically weakened. Talk to your doctor about your specific risks.
Your doctor may be able to talk to you about some of the findings right after your endoscopy. But the medicines you get to help relax you may impair your memory, so your doctor may wait until they fully wear off. It may take 2 to 4 days for some results. Tests for certain infections may take several weeks.
The esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine (duodenum) look normal.
Inflammation or irritation is found in the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.
Bleeding, an ulcer, a tumor, a tear, or dilated veins are found.
A hiatal hernia is found.
A too-narrow section (stricture) is found in the esophagus.
A foreign object is found in the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.
A biopsy sample may be taken to:
Many conditions can affect the results of this test. Your doctor will discuss your results with you in relation to your symptoms and past health.
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