What to Expect During an Upper Endoscopy

woman undergoing encoscopy
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An upper endoscopy is a procedure used to help diagnose disease in the upper part of the digestive system. In the procedure, a long, flexible and lighted tube, called an endoscope, is inserted through your mouth and down your throat to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (upper part of the small intestine). There is a tiny camera at the end of the tube which transmits images back to your doctor.

When Is an Endoscopy Used?

An upper endoscopy can be used for both diagnostic and treatment purposes:

Your doctor will be able to look for signs of disease to help to determine what might be causing unwanted digestive symptoms. Specifically, the endoscopy allows you doctor to look for signs of bleeding, inflammation, precancerous cells or tumors. Endoscopy is often recommended for people who are having the following symptoms:

Combining an upper endoscopy with an ultrasound can help your doctor to get in-depth images of organs beyond your esophagus.

The endoscopy procedure can allow your doctor to put a stop to bleeding, remove a polyp, precancerous tissue and other foreign objects. and take a biopsy (a tissue sample) for later examination.

Upper Endoscopy Risks

The upper endoscopy is typically a safe procedure.

You may experience a mild and temporary sore throat. 

Aspiration of the contents of your stomach is a risk that occurs more commonly when your stomach is not empty at the time of the procedure so it's important to follow fasting directions closely.

On extremely rare occasions, the procedure can cause bleeding, infection, or a tear in your esophagus or other organs in the upper part of your digestive system.

Before the Procedure

In the days leading up to your endoscopy, you will be asked to discontinue any medications that have a blood-thinning effect. The procedure requires that you fast for four to eight hours prior to your appointment to ensure that the upper part of your digestive system is empty.

During the Procedure

Typically an IV is started, so that you can be administered a sedative.  Depending on anesthesia used, pain medicine is usually not necessary. You will also be given a local anesthetic that you will gargle or have sprayed onto the back of your throat.

Next, the endoscope will be inserted through your throat into your esophagus and guided all the way down into your duodenum. 

The endoscope will pump air into the area and take video pictures so that your doctor can examine the lining of your upper digestive tract. Once your doctor has completed whatever diagnostic or treatment procedures that are necessary, the tube will be slowly withdrawn. The procedure itself typically takes between 20 and 30 minutes.

After the Procedure

After the procedure you will be required to wait at doctor's office for an hour or two so that you can be monitored as the sedation wears off. Your doctor may be able to give you some information about what was seen during the exam right away. (You may want to ask them to call you later, as often the grogginess from the procedure will make it hard for you to take in the information.) Due to the sedation, you will not be permitted to drive home.

You should plan on taking it easy for the rest of the day following your procedure. You may experience a sore throat, some gas or bloating, and perhaps even some mild abdominal cramping for a day or two after the procedure.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to seek immediate medical help, either by calling your doctor or going to the emergency room:

  • Bloody or black colored stool
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Severe or unrelenting abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Also Known As:

  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Esophago-gastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

Sources:

"Upper Endoscopy" Mayo Clinic website Accessed February 14, 2016.

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