An endoscope is a tube with a light and a camera on the end used to look inside the body to help with diagnosis of some conditions.
Upper endoscopy, also called upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy or gastroscopy, uses the endoscope passed down through the mouth to look inside of the upper digestive tract; the oesophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum.
Endoscopes can also be inserted into the body through the anus or through a small surgical incision in the skin.
An endoscopy will usually be performed in a special gastrointestinal endoscopy unit. The procedure could be carried out by a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specialises in disorders of the digestive tract), a surgeon, a specialist endoscopist, a doctor who has special training in using an endoscope, or a clinical nurse specialist trained in endoscopy.
The procedure is commonly used to help identify the causes of:
- Abdominal or chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swallowing problems
Endoscopy can also help identify inflammation, ulcers, and tumours.
Upper endoscopy is more accurate than X-rays for detecting abnormal growths (such as cancer) and for examining the inside of the upper digestive system. In addition, abnormalities can be treated through the endoscope. For example:
- Polyps (growths of tissue in the stomach) can be identified and removed, and tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken for analysis.
- Narrowed areas or strictures of the oesophagus, stomach, or duodenum from cancer or other diseases can be dilated or stretched using balloons or other devices. In some cases, a stent (a wire or plastic mesh tube) can be put in the stricture to prop keep it open.
- Objects stuck in the oesophagus can be removed.
- Bleeding due to ulcers, cancer or varices can be treated.
How do I prepare for an upper endoscopy?
Before an upper endoscopy, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, have a lung or heart condition, or if you are allergic to any medications.
Also, tell your doctor if you have:
- Ever been told you need to take antibiotics before a dental or surgical procedure.
- Ever had endocarditis (an infection of the heart valves).
- An artificial heart valve.
- Rheumatic heart disease.
If you have any of these conditions or devices, you may need to take antibiotics before the upper endoscopy.
Do not eat or drink anything for eight hours before the procedure.
Medications for high blood pressure, heart conditions, or thyroid conditions may be taken with a small sip of water before the procedure. If you have diabetes and use insulin, you must adjust the dosage of insulin the day of the test. Your GP or diabetes nurse will help you with this adjustment. Bring your diabetes medication with you so you can take it after the procedure.
You will need to bring a responsible adult with you to accompany you home after the procedure. The sedation given during the procedure causes drowsiness and dizziness and impairs your judgement, making it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery for up to 8 hours following the procedure.