Upper endoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract: esophagus, stomach, and first portion of the small intestine called duodenum.  This is done through the insertion of an endoscope - a bendable, narrow tube with a lighted camera - which transmits video images to a monitor, giving your doctor a clear view of what needs to be examined. Other names for this procedure include esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), upper GI endoscopy and panendoscopy.


Why is an upper endoscopy needed?

Upper endoscopy is normally done when your doctor tries to evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing. It is the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract and more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation as well as ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.  This procedure is also used to perform a cytology test, obtain a biopsy (small tissue samples, treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract, treat bleeding ulcers, removing obstructions such as stuck food or swallowed items, and dilating or stretching narrowed areas.


What needs to be done before an upper endoscopy?

You must inform your doctor about your medical circumstances and the medications you are currently taking. It’s important not to eat or drink anything for 6 to 8 hours prior to your exam. It provides a clear visual field and also helps prevent possible vomiting. Also, it is better to arrange for someone to drive you home and to do any other necessary driving for 12 to 24 hours because you’ll likely be sedated during the endoscopy.


What happens during an upper endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy usually takes place in a hospital or outpatient facility. It typically lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. Most patients experience only mild discomfort during the exam. Some even fall asleep due to the topical anesthetic that is either sprayed or gargled to help numb your throat. Some patients ask for an intravenous (IV) sedative, which also causes sleepiness.

An endoscopy generally requires you to lie on your side. A mouth guard may be inserted to protect your teeth. Then the endoscope will be gently passed through your mouth, down your esophagus, and into your stomach and duodenum. It’s helpful to remember that the scope is no larger than food you swallow, and, in the esophagus, it won’t interfere with breathing. Sometimes, because of the anesthetic, patients feel as if they can’t breathe. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply as there is plenty of air space.


What should be expected after an upper colonoscopy?

When the endoscopy is over, you will be transferred to a recovery area where you will be monitored until the sedative wears off. Feeling nauseated or bloated from is normal due to the air pumped into your stomach. You may also experience having a sore throat which could last for a day or two. Normally, patients are allowed to eat after you leave the facility unless the doctor instructs you otherwise.

Complications arising after an endoscopy are not uncommon. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following even after several days: difficulty swallowing or breathing; worsening pain in your throat, chest or abdomen; dizziness; fever; vomiting with or without blood; and if there is presence of blood in your stools.

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