Gastroscopy: Examination of the Upper Gastrointestinal Tract
Gastroscopy is a special procedure that is used by gastroenterologists to examine the condition of the walls and the lining of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This means that the procedure can check if your esophagus (a tube that serves a passageway, bringing food from mouth to the stomach), your stomach, and your duodenum (first part of the small intestine) is healthy or not.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH GASTROSCOPY?
Gastroscopy is generally safe. Complications and serious problems may be rare, but like with other medical procedures, life-threatening effects are possible. The most common risks associated with gastroscopy are:
- Bleeding where the biopsy was taken (rare and usually heals on its own)
- Perforation (tear) on the lining of the upper GI tract
- Reaction to sedation or anesthesia
If you have concerns and questions about the risks listed above, talk to your doctor. You and your doctor should weigh these possible risks against the benefits of undergoing with the procedure.
WHY UNDERGO A GASTROSCOPY?
A gastroscopy may be advised by your doctor for any of the following reasons:
- To check any abnormalities in the upper GI tract
- To evaluate a lesion found during other diagnostic examinations
- If you have a dilated bile duct or any structural problem related to the bile ducts
- To find causes of symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Black stools
- Blood in stools
- Chest pain or heartburn
- Extreme weight loss
- Lumps in the upper abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting for an extended period
- Passing of black stools
- Swallowing problems
- Suspected peptic ulcer
- To take tissue samples (biopsies) which will be checked for further tests
- And help your doctor decide on which treatment is the best for your condition
- Or to determine if other examinations are needed
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A GASTROSCOPY?
Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare for your gastroscopy. It is essential that you follow all the preparation instructions to complete the procedure successfully.
1. Discuss any concerns or questions you have with your doctor. It is essential for you to tell your doctor about any allergies, concerns, or medical conditions you have before the procedure. You should also inform him/her if you are taking any supplements, herbal medications, vitamins, or other prescribed medications.
2. Modify your diet and fluid intake. You must not eat or drink 6 to 8 hours before your scheduled gastroscopy. Small sips of water may be allowed for comfort if you get very thirsty, but you should not take anything else. This is important because food, drinks, or any stomach content can prevent your examiner from getting a clear view of the insides of your upper GI tract. Any food content may also increase the risk of aspiration (inhaling or breathing in any content of the stomach into the lungs) which may block the airways or cause pneumonia.
3. Verify with your doctor if you can continue taking medications. If you are taking medications due to other medical conditions (such as anticoagulants or diabetic medications), it is crucial that you inform your doctor.
4. Ask a friend or a family member to drive you home after the procedure. It is recommended for you to arrange a ride home after the procedure, especially if you are given an anesthesia or a sedative. Any of these medications can make you drowsy, unfocused, or forgetful for up to 24 hours after the procedure. Aside from driving, you must also avoid drinking alcohol, sign legally binding documents, or operate any machinery (especially heavy ones).
HOW IS GASTROSCOPY PERFORMED?
- You will be assisted by a nurse or a health care aide to the examination room. There, you may be able to ask some questions if you still have concerns.
- Any dentures will be removed, and you may be given a mouth guard in between your teeth to protect your oral cavity during the examination.
- You will be positioned on your left side, and a monitoring device will be set to monitor your vital signs.
- Before the procedure, you will be given either a sedative or a local anesthetic (throat spray) that can be used to numb the throat so the procedure would not cause pain or discomfort during the process.
- A small suction tube (like the ones being used by dentists) will be used to drain saliva or secretions from your mouth.
- To perform the procedure, a gastroscope is used. It is a flexible, long, thin tube that has a tiny ultrasound probe (camera and light). It is passed through the mouth, through the esophagus, stomach, and into the duodenum. The images taken by the camera will be sent to a screen that can be viewed by the examiner.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A GASTROSCOPY?
Because of the use of a sedative or an anesthetic, you will be required to rest for up to 2 hours or until the effects of the sedative or medication wear off. Your vital signs will be monitored including your blood glucose if you are diabetic.
Once you are awake and have recovered with the effects of anesthesia or sedative, you may be offered a biscuit and a drink.
After 24 hours, expect full recovery. Please follow the advice and the discharge instructions set by your physician.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR AFTER A GASTROSCOPY?
During the next 48 hours post gastroscopy, watch out for any problems such as worsening abdominal pain or chest pain. A persistent sore throat should also be taken note of. If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor.
This article only explains some of the basic information about Gastroscopy. It will help you get an idea of the procedure, but you still need to talk with your doctor because each case is different. We recommend that you book an appointment with one of our doctors to help you make an informed decision about the procedure. Call Pine Creek Medical Center at 214-231-CARE (2273).
• “Gastroscopy.” Oxford University Hospitals. NHS | Oxford University Hospitals | NHS Foundation Trust, Web. <http://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/34706Pgastroscopy.pdf>.
• Helsley, Gordon, M.D. “Gastroscopy: A New Method for Introduction of the Gastroscope.” JAMA. (1924;82(3):207–208. doi:10.1001/jama.1924.26520290002011c): Web.<https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/237966>.
• “What happens during a gastroscopy? – Informed Health Online – NCBI Bookshelf.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. NCBI, Web. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310264/>.