An upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A gastroenterologist uses endoscopy to diagnose and sometimes treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine. Upper endoscopy may be recommended for patients to investigate digestive track symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea or difficulty swallowing. ECLI gastroenterologists perform upper endoscopies on an outpatient basis.
Why is upper endoscopy done?
Upper endoscopy helps your doctor evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty in swallowing. It is the most effective test for diagnosing bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. It is also more accurate than x-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Your doctor might use upper endoscopy to obtain a biopsy (small tissue samples). A biopsy helps your doctor distinguish between benign and malignant (cancerous) tissues. Remember, biopsies are taken for many reasons, and your doctor might perform one even if he or she does not suspect cancer. For example, your doctor might use a biopsy to test for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacterium that causes ulcers. Your doctor might also use upper endoscopy to perform a cytology test, where he or she will introduce a small brush to collect cells for analysis.
Upper endoscopy is also used to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor can pass instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities. For example, your doctor might stretch (dilate) a narrowed area, remove polyps (usually benign growths) or treat bleeding.
What preparations are required?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination. Your doctor will tell you when to start fasting as the timing can vary. Tell your doctor in advance about any medications that you take as you may need to adjust your usual dose for the examination. Discuss any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.
Can I take my current medications?
Most medications can be continued as usual, but some medications can interfere with the preparation or the examination. Inform your doctor about medications you are taking, particularly aspirin products or antiplatelet agents, arthritis medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners such as warfarin), clopidogrel or insulin, fish oil or multivitamins. Also, be sure to mention any allergies you have to medications.
What happens during upper endoscopy?
You will be evaluated by an anesthesiologist and an appropriate anesthetic will be given. You will lay on your side, and your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth and into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing.
What happens after upper endoscopy?
You will be monitored until most of the effects of the anesthesia have worn off. Your throat might be a little sore, and you might feel bloated because of the air introduced into your stomach during the test. You will be able to eat after you leave unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Your physician will explain the results of the examination to you, although you’ll probably have to wait for the results of any biopsies performed. If you have been sedated or anesthetized during the procedure, someone must drive you home and stay with you. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, your judgment and reflexes could be impaired for the rest of the day.
What are the possible complications of upper endoscopy?
Although complications can occur, they are rare. Bleeding can occur at a biopsy site or where a polyp was removed, but it is usually minimal and rarely requires follow up. Perforation (a hole or tear in the gastrointestinal tract lining) may require surgery but this is a very uncommon complication. Some patients may have a reaction to the sedatives or complications due to heart or lung disease.
Contact your doctor immediately if you have a fever after the test or if you notice trouble swallowing, or increasing throat, chest or abdominal pain or bleeding, including black stools. Note that bleeding can occur several days after the procedure. If you have any concerns about a possible complication, it is always best to contact your doctor right away.
Endoscopy Center of Long Island (ECLI) provides a full range of clinical services, which include: