- Endoscopy or gastroscopy is a procedure that examines the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (or the start of the small intestine). This area is highlighted in yellow on the diagram.
- An endoscopy may be done to investigate symptoms such as reflux, trouble swallowing, abdominal pains, bleeding, weight loss or abnormal test results. It allows doctors to identify many things including reflux complications, ulcers, inflammation or cancers and to take biopsies.
- The procedure involves passing a small tube into the mouth and down the oesophagus to the stomach. This may be somewhat uncomfortable so it is done while you are sedated.
The stomach must be empty at the time of the examination, so you will be given instructions about how long to avoid any food or drink before the procedure, usually around 6 hours.
- Most medications can be taken with a sip of water on the morning of your test. If you are unsure about whether you need to stop medications before your test, please clarify with your doctor well before the date. For example, blood thinners or diabetic medications.
- During the test, your doctor may decide if they need to remove polyps or take biopsies.
- Although complications during this procedure can occur, they extremely rare. Driving is not permitted for 24 hours after the procedure, to allow all the sedation medication to wear off.
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Before the procedure
The stomach needs to be empty for the procedure.
No food or drink, including water, should be taken for 6 hours before the procedure. Important tablets and medicines can be taken with a sip of water. Diabetics may have to vary or withhold their diabetic medications on the morning of the procedure but this should to be discussed with your doctor beforehand.
During the procedure
Most patients receive some intravenous sedation during the procedure. You will recover very quickly from the effects of the sedation, however some medication may remain in the system for 24 hours. You must not drive a car or operate dangerous machinery for the next 24 hours.
After the procedure
The results of the gastroscopy will be discussed with you after the procedure and a letter will be sent to your local doctor. Usually biopsy results are available after 3-5 days.
Although complications can occur, they are rare. Bleeding can occur at a biopsy site or where a polyp was removed, but it’s usually minimal and rarely requires follow-up. Other potential risks include a reaction to the sedative used, aspiration where secretions are inhaled into the lungs or complications from underlying diseases of the heart and lung. The risk of perforation (a tear in the gastrointestinal tract lining) is extremely low but rises in particular instances, such as if an oesophageal dilatation is done, if polyps are removed or if therapy to treat bleeding is done.