An upper endoscopy is a procedure that is done to visually examine our upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube.
A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) uses an endoscopy to make a diagnosis, and sometimes, treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).
The medical term for upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy. You may have an upper endoscopy performed in a doctor's office, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital.
Your doctor may recommend an upper endoscopy procedure for the following reasons:
- Investigate symptoms: An endoscopy may help your doctor determine what is 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.
An upper endoscopy is used to make a diagnosis and, in some cases, treat conditions that affect the upper part of your digestive system, which include the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).
An endoscopy is sometimes combined with other procedures, such as an ultrasound. An ultrasound probe may be attached to the endoscope to create specialized images of the wall of your esophagus or stomach. An endoscopic ultrasound may also help your doctor create images of hard-to-reach organs, such as your pancreas.
Newer endoscopes use high-definition video to provide clearer images. Many endoscopes allow your doctor to use technology called narrow band imaging, which uses special light to help better detect precancerous conditions, such as Barrett's esophagus.
Read on to learn more about what to expect during and after your upper endoscopy procedure.
During an endoscopy
During an upper endoscopy procedure, you will be asked to lie down on a table on your back or on your side. As the procedure gets underway, monitors will often be attached to your body. This will allow your health care team to monitor your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.
You may be given a sedative medication. This medication, administered 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:
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.
The amount of time it will take for you to receive the results of your upper 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.