Upper endoscopy

What is an upper endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy is a medical procedure that involves inserting an endoscope - essentially a tube device with a camera and light at the end - to examine the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the duodenum. This section takes in the oesophagus (the 'gullet' connecting the throat to the stomach), the stomach itself and the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine connected to the stomach. The procedure is also referred to as a 'gastroscopy' or 'oesogastroduodenoscopy' (OGD or sometimes EGD in American English).

When is an upper endoscopy needed?

An upper endoscopy is often the best way to diagnose symptoms such as...

  • persistent upper abdominal pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • nausea or vomiting
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • heartburn/ acid reflux
  • long lasting diarrhea
  • blood in your vomit or in your faeces
  • Anaemia

At the same time an endoscope can take tissue samples for analysis and treat some conditions, for example bleeding can be stopped using cauterising (burning) tools, polyps can be removed, objects that have been swallowed can be removed and strictures in the oesophagus can be widened. An upper endoscopy may also be needed to check up on any prior treatment.

An endoscopy is often conducted in conjunction with other procedures, such as ultrasound, or have a special technology called 'narrow band imaging' which can identify precancerous tissue using a special light source.

How do I preparing for an endoscopy?

Before having an upper endoscopy your stomach must be totally empty, so you must stop eating and drinking (often referred to as 'fasting') at least eight hours before the procedure. It is important you tell the gastroenterologist if you are on any medication or if you have any allergies to any medication a few days before the procedure, just in case any of these need to be stopped ahead of the endoscopy.

Most upper endoscopies are performed under mild anaesthesia and you lie down on your side or on your back before the endoscopy is inserted via your mouth. You may or may not fall asleep during the procedure, which generally lasts no longer than 15 minutes.

What happens after an endoscopy?

After the endoscopy, patients are kept under observation for a few hours or until the anaesthetic wears off. As air needs to be introduced into the stomach to allow the gastroenterologist to view the linings of the organs, patients sometimes feel a little bloated afterwards - this is normal. It is also common to have a slight sore throat after the procedure.

Where a patient has been anaesthetised they are advised not to drive or operate heavy machinery on the same day and will need to be driven home.

Unless a tissue sample needs to be sent away for analysis, the gastroenterologist is generally able to share their findings with you immediately afterwards.

What should I look out for after an endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy is a very safe procedure. Your doctor will discuss about risks related to your procedures based on your individual circumstances, during the medical consultation.