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.
The medical term for an upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy. You may have an upper endoscopy done in your doctor’s office, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital.
Why It’s done
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:
- Investigate symptoms. An endoscopy may help your doctor determine what’s causing digestive signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing and gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Diagnose. Your doctor may use an endoscopy to collect tissue samples (biopsy) to test for diseases and conditions, such as anemia, bleeding, inflammation, diarrhea or cancers of the digestive system.
- Treat. Your doctor can pass special tools through the endoscope to treat problems in your digestive system, such as burning a bleeding vessel to stop bleeding, widening a narrow esophagus, clipping off a polyp or removing a foreign object.
Signs and symptoms to watch for after your endoscopy include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody, black or very dark colored stool
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Vomiting, especially if your vomit is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
How you Prepare
Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for your endoscopy. In some cases your doctor may ask that you:
- Fast before the endoscopy. You will need to stop drinking and eating four to eight hours before your endoscopy to ensure your stomach is empty for the procedure.
- Stop taking certain medications. You will need to stop taking certain blood-thinning medications in the days before your endoscopy. Blood thinners may increase your risk of bleeding if certain procedures are performed during the endoscopy. If you have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding your medications.
Tell your doctor about all the medications and supplements you’re taking before your endoscopy.
Plan ahead for your Recovery
Most people undergoing an upper endoscopy will receive a sedative to relax them and make them more comfortable during the procedure. Plan ahead 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 may also need to take the day off from work. Don’t make any important personal or financial decisions for 24 hours.
What can you Except?
During an endoscopy
During an upper endoscopy procedure, you’ll be asked to lie down on a table on your back or on your side. As the procedure gets underway:
- Monitors often will be attached to your body. This will allow your health care team to monitor your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.
- You may receive a sedative medication. This medication, given through a vein in your forearm, helps you relax during the endoscopy.
- Your doctor may spray an anesthetic in your mouth. This medication will 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. This allows the endoscope to move freely. And it allows your doctor to more easily examine the folds of your digestive tract. You may feel pressure or fullness from the added air.
- 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. An endoscopy typically takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your situation.
After the endoscopy
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:
- Bloating and gas
- Sore throat
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. After receiving a sedative, you may feel alert, but your reaction times are affected and judgment is delayed.
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 he or she collected a tissue sample (biopsy), you may need to wait a few days to get results from the testing laboratory. Ask your doctor when you can expect the results of your endoscopy.
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