A gastroscopy is a test which examines the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract. This procedure uses a small, flexible, viewing tube (endoscope) about as thick as a little finger, inserted through the mouth, to view the organs of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract including: the stomach, oesophagus and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). A biopsy (small tissue samples) is often obtained during an upper endoscopy. A biopsy can distinguish between benign and malignant (cancerous) tissues, can detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori (a bacterium associated with most ulcers) and can detect Barrett’s oesophagus (a potential precursor to oesophageal cancer).
What problems can a gastroscopy detect?
- abnormal growths
- precancerous conditions
- hiatus hernia
A gastroscopy can be used to determine the cause of:
- abdominal pain
- swallowing difficulties
- indigestion and heart burn
- unexplained weight loss
- bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract
Gastroscopy can also be used to remove stuck objects, including food, and to treat conditions such as bleeding ulcers.
How to Prepare for a Gastroscopy
The stomach must be empty before endoscopy. Generally, no eating or drinking is allowed for 6 hours before the procedure.
How is a Gastroscopy performed?
Patients may undergo a gastroscopy either with a local anaesthetic that is sprayed on the back of the throat, or with a sedative.
The local anaesthetic spray numbs the throat and calms the gag reflex. Although patients will be awake during the procedure which takes 5-10 minutes, you will be able to leave the department as soon as the test is completed.
Many patients wish to have a sedative, which is administered with an injection through a drip in the arm. Sedatives help patients stay relaxed and comfortable. While patients are sedated, the doctor and medical staff monitor vital signs.
During the procedure, patients lie on their side. An endoscope is carefully fed down the oesophagus and into the stomach and duodenum. A small camera mounted on the endoscope transmits a video image to a video monitor, allowing close examination of the intestinal lining. Air is pumped through the endoscope to inflate the stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see. This can cause some burping. During the procedure biopsies (tissue samples) are often taken, even if all looks normal. Taking a biopsy does not hurt.
Recovery from a Gastroscopy
After a gastroscopy, patients are moved to a recovery room where they wait about an hour for the sedative to wear off. During this time, patients may feel bloated or nauseated. They may also have a sore throat, which can stay for a day or two. Patients will likely feel tired and should plan to rest for the remainder of the day. Unless otherwise directed, patients may immediately resume their normal diet and medications.
Some results from the gastroscopy are available immediately after the procedure. The doctor will often share results with the patient after the sedative has worn off. Biopsy results are usually ready in a few days.
Driving is not permitted for 24 hours after a gastroscopy in order to allow sedatives time to completely wear off. Before the appointment, patients should make plans for a ride home.