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Treatment & Procedures

Endoscopy

Click here to find out all about Upper GI Endoscopy or Gastroscopy in an interactive presentation.

WHAT IS A GASTROSCOPY?

Gastroscopy (also known as an upper GI endoscopy) is a procedure that enables the examination of the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, ie. The oesophagus, stomach and duodenum, using a thin flexible tube with its own inbuilt video camera, lens and light source (gastroscope).

WHY IS A GASTROSCOPY DONE?

Gastroscopy is usually performed to evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It is also the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. Gastroscopy is the most accurate means of detecting inflammation and ulcers of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. Gastroscopy can detect early cancer by performing biopsies (taking small tissue samples) and can distinguish between benign and malignant (cancer) conditions. Biopsies are taken for many reasons, and do not necessarily mean that cancer is suspected. Gastroscopy may be used to treat conditions present in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A variety of instruments can be passed through the endoscope, which allow many abnormalities to be treated directly, with little or no discomfort, for example, stretching narrowed areas, removing polyps or treating upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

WHAT PREPARATION IS REQUIRED?

For the best (and safest) examination, the stomach must be completely empty. You should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for five (5) hours before the examination. Your doctor will be more specific about the time to begin fasting, depending on the time of day that your test is scheduled.

Possible medication adjustments: Before the test, be sure to discuss with the doctor whether you should adjust any of your usual medications before the procedure, any drug allergies you may have, and whether you have any major conditions such as a heart or lung condition, that might require special attention during the procedure.

WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED DURING THE GASTROSCOPY?

Your doctor will review with you why a gastroscopy is being performed, whether any alternative tests are available, and possible complications from the procedure. Practices may vary among doctors but you will have your throat sprayed with a local anaesthetic before the test begins and will be given medication through a vein to help you relax during the test. While you are in a comfortable position on your left side, the endoscope is passed through your mouth and then in turn through the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing during the test. Most patients consider the test to be only slightly uncomfortable. Many patients fall asleep during the procedure.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE GASTROSCOPY?

After the test, you will be monitored in a recovery area until most of the effects of the medication have worn off. Your throat may be a little sore for a while, and you may feel bloated right after the procedure because of the air introduced into your stomach during the procedure. You will be able to resume your diet two (2) hours after the procedure. Start with a cool drink. In most circumstances, your doctor can inform you of your test results on the day of the procedure, however the results of any biopsies taken will take several days.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS OF GASTROSCOPY?

Endoscopy is safe. Complications can occur but they are rare when the test is performed by doctors with specialised training and experience in the procedure. Bleeding may occur from a biopsy site, or where a polyp has been removed. This is usually minimal and rarely requires blood transfusions or surgery. Localised irritation of the vein where the medication was injected may cause a tender lump lasting for several weeks but this will go away eventually. Applying heat packs or hot, moist towels may help relieve discomfort. Other potential risks include a reaction to the sedatives/anaesthetic used and complications from heart or lung disease. Major complications, eg. perforation (a tear that may require surgery for repair) are very uncommon and occur less often than once in 10,000 tests. It is important for you to recognise early signs of any possible complications. If you begin to run a fever after the test, begin to have trouble swallowing, or have increasing throat, chest or abdominal pain, let your doctor know about it promptly or contact your local Emergency Department.

You will need to arrange to have someone accompany you home from the examination.

Do not:

. Drive a car
. Work machinery
. Consume alcohol
. Sign legal documents
. Make important decisions

Until the following day.

If any of your questions have not been answered here, please feel free to discuss them with the endoscopy nurse or your doctor before the procedure begins.

© ANZGOSA - Australia & New Zealand Gastro Oesophageal Surgery Association
ANZGOSA - Australia & New Zealand Gastric & Oesophageal Surgery Association Your Practice Online