Gastroscopy (also known as upper endoscopy, oesophagogastroduodenoscopy or OGD) is a procedure that enables your surgeon to examine the lining of the oesophagus (swallowing tube or food pipe), stomach and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine). A bendable, lighted tube about the thickness of your little finger is placed through your mouth and into the stomach and duodenum.
Why is a gastroscopy performed?
Gastroscopy is performed to evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing or heartburn. It is an excellent method for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract, and also to evaluate the oesophagus or stomach before and after major surgery. Upper endoscopy can detect early cancer and can distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous conditions by performing biopsies of suspicious areas. Biopsies are taken by using a specialized instrument to sample tissue, which are then sent to the laboratory to be analysed. A biopsy is taken for many reasons and does not mean that cancer is suspected.
What preparation is required?
The stomach should be completely empty, and you should have nothing to eat or drink approximately 6 hours before your examination. Certain medications need to be adjusted or avoided before the examination, so it is best to inform your surgeon of all your current medications as well as allergies. If you also have any major diseases, such as heart or lung diseases, please also discuss this as you might require special attention during the procedure. You will be sedated during the procedure, so please arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery until the next day.
What can be expected during the gastroscopy?
You will have your throat sprayed with a local anaesthetic before the test begins and medication will be given through a vein to help you relax during the examination. You will be laid on your side as the endoscope is gently passed through your mouth to complete the examination. Air is introduced into your stomach during the procedure to allow a better view of the stomach lining. The procedure usually lasts 15–30 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing, and most patients fall asleep during the procedure. A few find it only slightly uncomfortable.
What happens after the gastroscopy?
You will be monitored in the endoscopy suite for 1–2 hours, until the effects of the sedatives have worn off. Your throat may be a little sore for a day or two, and you may feel bloated immediately after the procedure because of the air that is introduced into your stomach during the examination. You will be able to resume your diet and take your routine medication after you leave the endoscopy area, unless otherwise instructed. You surgeon will inform you of the test results on the day of the procedure, unless biopsy samples were taken. These results take several days to return. If you do not remember what your surgeon told you about the examination of follow-up instructions, call the Clinic to find out what you were supposed to do.
What complications can occur?
Gastroscopy and biopsy are generally safe. Complications are rare, however, they can occur. They include bleeding form the site of a biopsy or polypectomy and a tear (perforation) through the lining of the intestinal wall. Blood transfusions are rarely required. A reaction to the sedatives can occur. Irritation to the vein that medications were given is uncommon, but may cause a painful lump lasting a few weeks. Warm, moist towels will help relieve this discomfort. It is important to recognise the early signs of possible complications and to contact the Clinic if you notice symptoms of difficulty swallowing, worsening throat pain, chest pains, severe abdominal pain, fevers, chills or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup.