Upper Endoscopy

What is Upper Endoscopy?

The upper endoscope is a flexible fiberoptic tube that allows the doctor to directly view the upper GI tract which includes the esophagus (the “food pipe”), the stomach itself, and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Upper endoscopy allows the doctor to check for any ulcers, inflammation, possible growths, to investigate causes of pain or obstruction, and to look for and possibly treat sources of gastrointestinal bleeding. The procedure is performed under intravenous sedation to keep you comfortable, and generally takes 15-20 minutes to perform. The scope is passed orally and then advanced into the stomach. The endoscope has an operating channel which allows the physician to pass instruments to take biopsies. The lining of the GI tract does not have nerve fibers and you would not have any sensation of samples being taken.

Before the Procedure

You will need to arrive at the Endoscopy Unit on an empty stomach. This would mean no solid food for at least 6 hours, and no clear liquids for at least 3 hours. At the Endoscopy Unit, your medical history will be obtained, and an intravenous line will be started. It would be helpful to bring a list of medications you are taking. You will be meeting the Anesthesia team who will be providing the sedation to keep you as comfortable as possible. You will receive either a local spray or gargle for the back of the throat. They may not taste great, but they will numb the back of the gag reflex so choking or gagging will be controlled. A bite block will be placed in your mouth to protect your teeth.

After the Procedure

You will be taken to the recovery area after the exam is completed. You will be observed by the nursing staff as the sedation wears off, a process that may take 30 to 45 minutes. When you are able to swallow, you may then have something to drink and then eat. You will hear the results of your upper endoscopy. If biopsies have been obtained, the results may take 3 to 5 days. It is required that you have a friend or relative available to drive you home.

Risks / Complications

You might experience a mild sore throat for a day or two. There might be a sense of bloating which will be relieved by burping or belching. This results from air that is introduced into the stomach so that the doctor can see. A biopsy may cause some bleeding, which is rarely noticed. The major complication of upper endoscopy is perforation of the esophagus or stomach. Such a tear or puncture is very unusual, but may require surgery to repair. Every patient is monitored for their blood pressure, heart rhythm, and oxygen level during the procedure to ensure the safety of the sedation.