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Upper GI Endoscopy

An upper GI endoscopy is a procedure to view the upper digestive tract, which includes the esophagus (the tube linking the mouth and stomach), stomach and beginning of the small intestine.

Overview

Overview

  • An upper GI endoscopy is a test your doctor does to see inside part of your digestive system.
  • Your doctor will look at the inside of your esophagus (the tube that links your mouth and your stomach), your stomach and the start of your small intestine.
  • An upper GI endoscopy uses a long, thin (about the width of your little finger), flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end. This tube and camera gives your doctor a clear view inside your body.
  • An upper GI endoscopy is done by a gastroenterologist, who has special training. An upper GI endoscopy can be done in a hospital or an outpatient office.
  • You will be given medicine to block pain and make you feel sleepy during this test, so you won’t feel or remember much.
  • In many cases, an upper GI endoscopy is a better test than X-rays, since the doctor is able to see more clearly.
  • An upper GI endoscopy can be helpful in finding health problems or figuring out the reason you are having certain symptoms, like trouble or pain when swallowing, pain in the stomach, or bleeding.
  • During an upper GI endoscopy, the doctor may take a biopsy (small piece of tissue to look at under the microscope). You won’t feel this.
  • Sometimes, if certain problems are found during the test, tools can be passed through the tube to fix them.
An upper GI endoscopy gives your doctor a picture of your digestive system that cannot be seen through normal X-rays. Your gastroenterologist will use the upper GI endoscopy to look for health issues and take tissues samples to find health problems, such as:
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Ulcers.
  • Cancer or a tumor.
  • Swelling.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Low iron.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
An upper GI endoscopy can also be used to figure out why you are having certain symptoms, such as:
  • Heartburn that won’t go away.
  • Bleeding.
  • Throwing up.
  • Upset stomach that won’t go away.
  • Pain.
  • Losing weight (when you aren’t trying to).
  • Problems swallowing.
An upper GI endoscopy can also be used to treat certain health issues, such as:
  • Bleeding ulcers and blood vessels.
  • Strictures (narrowing).
  • Objects or foods that are stuck.

Preparing

Preparing

There are important steps you must take to safely get ready for your upper GI endoscopy. These are general instructions. Be sure to follow any instructions given to you by your doctor.  

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Your doctor or nurse will review the steps with you and make sure that you know how you need to get ready and what you can expect during and after the test. If you have any questions, be sure to bring them up with the doctor or nurse.  
  • Give your doctor a list of all the medications you are taking and any allergies you have.
    • The list should include both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, like aspirin, NSAIDs or vitamins or supplements.
    • Ask your doctor before the test if any of your medications should be taken on the day of your upper GI endoscopy.
    • Ask your doctor before the test if any of your medications should not be taken before your upper GI endoscopy.
    • Ask your doctor before the test if you should take your medications the night before your upper GI endoscopy.
  • Tell your doctor if you:
    • Have diabetes and what medications you are on for it.
    • Are taking blood thinners or have bleeding or blood-clotting problems.
    • Have a pacemaker or other implanted electromedical devices.
    • Have had stomach or bowel surgery, swallowing problems or other gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
    • Have heart, lung or any other health problems that may need special care before the test.
  • Do not eat or drink at all in the 10 hours before your endoscopy. Having anything in your stomach could offset the test. If you do not remember the time of your appointment, call your doctor.
  • If your doctor plans to give you medicine to block pain and make you feel sleepy, you will not be allowed to drive a car, work or make important decisions after the test. You must have someone with you to review the discharge instructions and to drive you home after the test.
  • Plan to rest at home for the rest of the day after your test.
An upper GI endoscopy can be done as an outpatient procedure in your doctor’s office, outpatient surgical center or hospital. Be sure you know exactly where you need to go the day of your procedure, as it may not be the same as your doctor’s office. Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse if there is anything you do not understand.  
During

During

Before your upper GI endoscopy

Your doctor will tell you more specifically what you can expect during the test. 

Some things may include:

  • A nurse will review your medical history, medications and allergies.
  • You will change into a hospital gown.
  • Your doctor will review the consent form for the test, answer any of your questions and ask you to sign the form, which
    says you understand the test being done.
  • An intravenous (IV) line may be started.

During your upper GI endoscopy

 

  • During the test, everything will be done to make sure that
    you are at ease, safe and comfortable.  
  • You may be given medicine to block pain and make you relaxed and sleepy.
  • You may have the back of your throat sprayed with something to numb it to lessen discomfort of the endoscope.
  • A plastic bite block may be placed between your teeth (to protect your teeth and the endoscope).
  • Once you are fully relaxed, the endoscope will be carefully passed through your mouth, into your esophagus (tube that links your mouth and your stomach) and into your stomach and duodenum, the first section of your small intestine.
  • The endoscope
    • The doctor will use an endoscope (a long, thin [about the width of your little finger], flexible tube with a tiny
      camera and light on the end) to be able to see inside.
    • The endoscope will not block your breathing.
  • In some cases, the doctor may need to do a biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue to look at under the microscope). You will not feel this. 
  • In some cases, the endoscope can be used to treat some problems, like bleeding or narrowing.
  • After the doctor is done looking inside, the endoscope will be removed and
    you will wake up in recovery as the medicine wears off.
After

After

Your doctor will tell you more specifically what you can expect after the test. Some things may include:
  • When your upper GI endoscopy is done, you will be cared for in a recovery room until the medicine wears off and you are more alert.
  • Your doctor or nurse will review the upper GI endoscopy results with you and give you any other details or next steps you may need.
  • If a biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue to look at under the microscope) was taken, your doctor or nurse will tell you when those results will be available. They will tell you if any other testing or follow-up is needed.
  • You will be told how soon you can eat and drink, plus other steps to take for getting back to your normal routine.
  • Plan to take it easy for the rest of the day after your upper GI endoscopy. This means not driving, working or making important decisions.
  • You will need to arrange to have a family member or friend listen to the discharge instructions and take you home. You should plan to resume your normal activities (driving and working) the day following your exam.
  • You may feel some minor issues, such as mild sore throat, bloating (swelling), gas or mild cramps right after the test. These should go away in less than 24 hours.
  • Contact your doctor’s office if you have any questions after your upper GI endoscopy.
Safety

Safety

Doctors have been doing upper GI endoscopy tests for many years and have shown that it is a safe test. Issues from the test almost never happen. If issues do happen, they might be:
  • A hole in the intestinal wall (this could need to be fixed through surgery).
  • Bleeding.
  • A bad reaction to the medicine you are given during the test to help you relax.
You will be given instructions when you leave after your endoscopy. If you have concerns, new pains or problems after you have left, please call your doctor’s office right away to get help and instructions.

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