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A gastroscopy (also called endoscopy) is done using a narrow, flexible, telescopic camera called a gastroscope. The gastroscope is swallowed and passed down your oesophagus into your stomach.

A Gastroscopy Can Help Find Out What Is Causing Symptoms Such As:-

  • indigestion (especially if you're aged over 55)
  • repeated vomiting or vomiting blood
  • difficulty swallowing
  • anaemia

It's Also Used To Check For Certain Gastrointestinal Conditions Such As : -

  • coeliac disease
  • ulcers
  • Barrett's oesophagus
  • early signs of cancer

Sometimes, a gastroscopy is used to confirm the results of other tests.

Reasons For The Exam

Disorders of the upper digestive tract are quite common in our stressful society. Various factors such as diet, environment, and heredity contribute to these conditions.

Gastroscopy is often useful in diagnosing and treating problems such as : -

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding from the digestive tract
  • Cancers of the stomach or esophagus
  • Chronic heartburn and indigestion
  • Diagnosis and removal of stomach polyps
  • Dilatation of esophageal strictures
  • Gastritis, or stomach inflammation
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Removal of swallowed objects
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Treatment of the "Ulcer Bacteria"
  • Ulcers of the esophagus
  • Ulcers of the stomach and ulcers of the duoden
  • Unexplained chest pain

Preparing For Your Procedure

Gastroscopy is usually done in a hospital as out-patient or day case. This means that you won't need to stay overnight. Your hospital will write to you with instructions to follow before your gastroscopy. Your stomach needs to be completely empty so that your doctor can see the lining of your stomach and duodenum clearly.

You will be asked to follow fasting instructions. Typically, you must not eat or drink for eight hours before your test. You may be allowed occasional sips of water for up to an hour and a half

Before The Procedure

You may need to stop taking some prescribed or over-the-counter medicines for indigestion two weeks before your gastroscopy, as these medicines can hide problems that would otherwise be found during the gastroscopy. You can continue to take antacids (eg sodium alginate, Gaviscon). If you normally take other medication (eg tablets for blood pressure), continue to take this as usual, unless your doctor tells you not to. If in doubt, check with your doctor.

Gastroscopy may be done under local anaesthesia, which is usually given in the form of a throat spray. This completely blocks feeling from your throat area, but you will stay awake during the procedure. You may be offered a sedative to help you relax during the procedure. If you have a sedative, you will have very little memory of the test.

At the hospital your nurse may check your heart rate and blood pressure, take a blood sample and test your urine. Tell your doctor if you're allergic to any medication and whether you have asthma, other lung disease, heart problems or arthritis affecting your neck. Also tell your doctor if you have any dental crowns, bridges or loose teeth. These may be damaged by the gastroscope, although special care will be taken to prevent this.

Your doctor will usually ask you to sign a consent form. This confirms that you understand the risks, benefits and possible alternatives to the procedure and have given your permission for it to go ahead.

About The Procedure

The procedure usually takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Your nurse will ask you to take off your shirt or top and put on a hospital gown. He or she will ask you to remove dentures or dental plates, contact lenses, glasses and jewellery.

If you're having sedation, this is usually given through a small plastic tube (cannula) in a vein on the back of your hand. You should start to feel relaxed and drowsy almost immediately. Sedatives can sometimes affect your breathing. While you're sedated, your doctor will monitor the amount of oxygen in your blood through a sensor on your finger and give you extra oxygen through a mask.

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With you lying on your side and your head bent slightly forward, your doctor will place a mouth guard over your teeth before carefully putting the gastroscope into your mouth. Your doctor will ask you to swallow to help the gastroscope pass into your oesophagus and down towards your stomach. It's important to keep your head and neck still and not try to straighten it. You should be able to breathe normally during this test. A nurse will help the doctor by using a suction tube to remove excess saliva from your mouth during the procedure.

Air is pumped through the gastroscope and into your stomach to make it expand and your stomach lining easier to see. When this happens, you may briefly feel a sensation of fullness or nausea.

The camera lens at the end of the gastroscope sends images from the inside of your body to a monitor. Your doctor will look at these images to examine the lining of your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum.

If necessary, your doctor will take a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) and/or remove small growths of tissue called polyps. This is done using special instruments passed inside the gastroscope and is quick and painless, although you may feel a slight pinch. The samples will be sent to a laboratory for testing to determine the type of cells and if they are benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

When the test is finished the gastroscope is taken out quickly and easily. The gastroscopy won't hurt but it may be a bit uncomfortable. You may belch during or after the procedure to expel the air that has been pumped in.

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