stomach

What is gastroscopy and why is it performed?

Gastroscopy, also known as upper endoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract including the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (first portion of the small bowel). Gastroscopy helps evaluate symptoms such as swallowing difficulties, abdominal pain, nausea, unexplained weight loss, diarrhoea and internal bleeding.

Your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope that has a built-in camera. This allows your doctor to view images of the upper gastrointestinal tract on a monitor. Your doctor may use gastroscopy to obtain a biopsy (small tissue sample). A biopsy may allow your doctor to diagnose infection of the stomach with bacteria, Coeliac disease or even a polyp or tumour.

Your doctor can also pass instruments through the endoscope to treat conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of treatments include stretching or dilation of a narrow oesophagus, removal of polyps, treatment of internal bleeding and rare conditions such as achalasia or zenker’s diverticulum.


What preparations are required?

An empty stomach is required for a thorough and safe examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Some medications may need to be discontinued before gastroscopy. Specific details about how to prepare for gastroscopy can be found here.


What happens during gastroscopy?

Your doctor will first discuss the risks of the procedure with you and address any questions you may have. You will then meet your anaesthetist who will discuss all aspects of the anaesthetic. Following this you will be taken to the procedure room. You'll then lie on your side, and a needle will be placed in your hand or arm. This is used to administer the anaesthetic. Once you are completely asleep your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth and into the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The procedure usually takes around 20-30 minutes.


What happens after gastroscopy?

You will be monitored until the anaesthetic has worn off. Your doctor will explain the results of the examination to you and will provide you with a written report of your procedure for your GP. You will be able to eat after you leave unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Because of the anaesthetic, your judgement and reaction time will be impaired for the rest of the day. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you.

What are the possible complications of gastroscopy?

Although complications can occur, they are rare. The risk of serious complications with standard gastroscopy is less than one case per five thousand procedures. The most serious complication is perforation (a hole or tear in the gastrointestinal tract wall) and this routinely needs surgery. Other risks include bleeding from a biopsy site or polyp removal site. This is uncommon however it may lead to transfusion or admission to hospital. Some patients may have a reaction to the anaesthetic or complications from heart or lung disease.

Although complications after gastroscopy are uncommon, it's important to recognise complications and treat them early.

Contact your doctor immediately if you have a fever after the test or if you notice trouble swallowing or increasing throat, chest or abdominal pain, or bleeding, including black stools. Bleeding can occur up to two weeks after the procedure.If you have any concerns following your test, you should contact your doctor right away.