An upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist/general surgeon) uses endoscopy to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).
The medical term for an upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy. An upper endoscopy can be done in an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. Oftentimes a hospital has a waiting list and may not have anaesthesiologists to give you sedation. An endoscopist at the hospital may give you lighter sedation.
An upper endoscopy is used to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the upper part of your digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).
Your doctor may recommend an endoscopy procedure to:
Endoscopy is a very safe procedure. However, it carries a very small risk of complications. Rare complications include:
You can reduce your risk of complications by carefully following your doctor’s instructions for preparing for endoscopy, such as fasting and stopping certain medications.
Signs and symptoms to watch for after your endoscopy include:
Call your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room if you experience any of these signs or symptoms.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for your endoscopy. In some cases, your doctor may ask that you:
Tell your doctor about all the medications and supplements you’re taking before your endoscopy.
Most people undergoing an upper endoscopy will receive a sedative to relax them and make them more comfortable during the procedure. If you’ll be sedated during the procedure, plan for your recovery while the sedative wears off. You may feel mentally alert, but your memory, reaction times and judgment may be impaired. Find someone to drive you home. You cannot drive for 24 hours. You may also need to take the day off from work. Don’t make any important personal or financial decisions for 24 hours.
During an upper endoscopy procedure, you’ll be asked to lie down on a table on your back or on your side.
Monitors often will be attached to your body to allow your health care team to monitor your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. You may receive a sedative medication through a vein in your forearm. This medication helps you relax during the endoscopy. Most people don’t feel or remember anything during or after the procedure.
Your doctor may spray an anesthetic in your mouth to numb your throat in preparation for insertion of the long, flexible tube (endoscope). You may be asked to wear a plastic mouth guard to hold your mouth open. Then the endoscope is inserted in your mouth. Your doctor may ask you to swallow as the scope passes down your throat. You may feel some pressure in your throat, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
You can’t talk after the endoscope passes down your throat, though you can make noises. The endoscope doesn’t interfere with your breathing.
As your doctor passes the endoscope down your esophagus, a tiny camera at the tip transmits images to a video monitor in the exam room. Your doctor watches this monitor to look for abnormalities in your upper digestive tract. If abnormalities are found in your digestive tract, your doctor may record images for later examination.
Gentle air pressure may be fed into your esophagus to inflate your digestive tract, so the endoscope can move freely, and the folds of your digestive tract are more easily examined. The air can create a feeling of pressure or fullness.
Your doctor will pass special surgical tools through the endoscope to collect a tissue sample or remove a polyp. Your doctor watches the video monitor to guide the tools.
When your doctor has finished the exam, the endoscope is slowly retracted through your mouth. Endoscopy typically takes five to 20 minutes, depending on your situation.
You’ll be taken to a recovery area to sit or lie quietly after your endoscopy. You may stay for an hour or so. This allows your health care team to monitor you as the sedative begins to wear off.
Once you’re at home, you may experience some mildly uncomfortable signs and symptoms after endoscopy, such as:
These signs and symptoms will improve with time. If you’re concerned or quite uncomfortable, call your doctor.
Take it easy for the rest of the day after your endoscopy. You may feel alert, but your reaction times and judgment are delayed after receiving a sedative.
When you receive the results of your endoscopy will depend on your situation. If, for instance, your doctor performed the endoscopy to look for an ulcer, you may learn the findings right after your procedure. If a tissue sample (biopsy) was collected, it may take a few days to get results from the testing laboratory. Ask your doctor when you can expect the results of your endoscopy.