An “endoscopy” is a technique used to look inside a part of the body. “Upper GI” refers to to the top portion of the gastrointestinal tract, specifically the digestive system which includes the esophagus, swallowing tube leading to the stomach, and the beginning of the small intestine. An Upper GI Endoscopy is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist. This specialist uses a long, thin flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light – the endoscope – to diagnose and in some cases treat problems (pain in stomach, bleeding, ulcers, painful swallowing, tumors) in this region. The camera reflects a high quality picture on a TV monitor nearby to provide your doctor with a detailed view of your upper digestive system.
How Do I Prepare for the Procedure?
There are several important steps that you can take to prepare for this procedure.
- Give your doctor a complete list of all the medicines you are taking and any allergies you have to drugs or other substances.
- Inform your medical team of any heart, lung, or other medical conditions that may need special attention before, during, or after upper GI endoscopy.
- Do not eat or drink within six hours of your procedure. Food in the stomach will block the view through the endoscope, and it could cause vomiting.
An Upper GI endoscopy is done in the hospital endoscopy unit. You’ll be asked to sign a form that verifies that you consent to having the procedure and that you understand what is involved. If there is anything that you don’t understand, then it is important that you ask your doctor before proceeding forward.
What Can You Expect During an Upper GI Endoscopy?
During the procedure, everything will be done to help you be as comfortable as possible. Your blood pressure, pulse, and the oxygen level in your blood will be carefully monitored. You will be given sedative medications to ease the pain during the procedure. A mouthpiece will be placed over your mouth to keep it open, and your doctor will maneuver the endoscope slowly and carefully through the mouthpiece into the upper GI tract. In some cases, a sample of tissue may need to be taken for a biopsy.
What are the Possible Complications From an Upper GI Endoscopy?
Over the years, research and practice have proved that the upper GI endoscopy is a safe procedure. It typically only takes 10-20 minutes to perform. Complications rarely occur.
In some cases, a perforation – a puncture of the esophagus, stomach, or intestinal wall, which could require surgical repair, and bleeding, which could require transfusion — may occur. However, these complications are unlikely.
After the procedure, you will be cared for in a recovery area and observed until your sedatives wear off and the doctor says it safe for you to return home. It is recommended that you arrange for a friend to take you home. Occasionally, minor issues may persist, such as mild sore throat, bloating, or cramping; however, these symptoms should disappear in 24 hours or less.
At this time you will also be informed of the preliminary results of the procedure.