What is Upper Endoscopy?
Upper endoscopy lets us examine the lining of the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine). We will use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which has its own lens and light source, and will view the images on a video monitor. You might hear us refer to upper endoscopy as upper GI endoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or panendoscopy.
Why is Upper Endoscopy Done?
Upper endoscopy helps us evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It’s the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. It also is used to evaluate patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Upper endoscopy is more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers, and tumors of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
We might use upper endoscopy to obtain a biopsy (small tissue samples). A biopsy helps us distinguish between benign and malignant (cancerous) tissues. Remember, biopsies are taken for many reasons, and we might take one even if we do not suspect cancer. For example, we might use a biopsy to test for Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that causes ulcers.
We might also use upper endoscopy to perform a cytology test, where we will introduce a small brush to collect cells for analysis.
Upper endoscopy is also used to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. We can pass instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities with little or no discomfort. For example, we might stretch a narrowed area, remove polyps (usually benign growths) or treat bleeding.
How Should I Prepare for the Procedure?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for approximately six hours before the examination. We will tell you when to start fasting.
Tell us in advance about any medications you take; you might need to adjust your usual dose for the examination. Discuss any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.
Also, alert us if you require antibiotics prior to undergoing dental procedures, because you might need antibiotics prior to upper endoscopy as well.
What Can I Expect During Upper Endoscopy?
First, you will meet an anesthesiologist who will administer the anesthesia during the procedure. You’ll then lie on your side, and we will pass the endoscope through your mouth and into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The endoscope doesn’t interfere with your breathing. You will fall asleep before the procedure starts, once the anesthesia is administered.
What Happens After Upper Endoscopy?
You will be monitored until most of the effects of the medication have worn off. Your throat might be a little sore, and you might feel bloated because of the air introduced into your stomach during the test. You will be able to eat after you leave unless we instruct you otherwise.
We generally can tell you your test results on the day of the procedure; however, the results of some tests might take several days.
You won’t be allowed to drive after the procedure even though you might not feel tired. You should arrange for someone to accompany you home because the anesthesia might affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day.
What are the Possible Complications of Upper Endoscopy?
Bleeding can occur at a biopsy site or where a polyp was removed, but it’s usually minimal and rarely requires follow-up. Other potential risks include a reaction to the sedative used, complications from heart or lung diseases, and perforation (a tear in the gastrointestinal tract lining). It’s important to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you have a fever after the test, trouble swallowing or increasing throat, chest or abdominal pain, tell your doctor immediately.