What is a Gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy (also called an upper endoscopy) is the examination of the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract or digestive system that includes the oesophagus, stomach and the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine). A flexible instrument (Gastroscope) with adjustable controls and tiny video camera at its tip allows the Doctor to carefully guide the instrument and obtained detailed views of the inside lining of the upper digestive system. Other instruments can be passed through the Gastroscope to take small samples of tissue (biopsies) for further analysis.
Gastroscopy can be helpful in the diagnosis of various problems, including pain in the abdomen, difficulty swallowing, bleeding, ulcers and cancers. The Gastroscope does not cause you problems with breathing.
How to prepare for a Gastroscopy?
You must not eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours before the procedure (unless you are having a colonoscopy as well as a gastroscopy in which case the instructions are different). This is to make sure that you have an empty stomach, which is necessary for the safest examination. Food in the stomach can block the view through the Gastroscope and it can cause vomiting.
Can I continue taking my usual medications?
You should be able to carry on taking your usual drugs, but some drugs may cause problems.
You must tell your doctor what you are taking, particularly:
- Aspirin products
- Arthritis drugs
- Blood thinners e.g. Warfarin (anticoagulants)
- Diabetic tablets or Insulin
- Iron supplements
- Any herbal remedies
You must also tell the doctor, and if you have:
- any allergies to any drugs
- a pacemaker
- a joint replacement
- a heart valve replacement
- severe heart, lung or kidney disease
Am I awake for this procedure?
During the procedure everything will be done to ensure your comfort. Just before the procedure, you will be given sedation (medication to make you very drowsy and relaxed). This is given through an intravenous line that will be inserted into your arm. You will be able to breathe for yourself and have difficulty remembering the experience.
Once you are fully sedated your doctor slowly passes the Gastroscope to carefully view the lining. As you will be sedated you will not be aware of the examination or if biopsies are taken or polyps removed. You should plan on two to three hours for waiting, preparation and recovery. The time needed for gastroscopy will vary, but on average, the procedure itself usually takes approximately 15 minutes.
What are the possible complications of having a Gastroscopy?
- A tear through the wall of the food pipe, stomach or duodenum (perforation). This is rare.
- Bleeding at a biopsy site or at the site where a polyp has been removed. This is usually minor and can usually be stopped through the endoscope. Rarely, surgery is needed to stop bleeding.
- Lung infection due to vomiting and aspiration during the procedure.
- There is a rare possibility that defects or disease may be missed.
- Reaction or sensitivity to medication used for sedation
- Very rarely, heart and lung problems occur, such as: low oxygen levels, lowered blood pressure, higher pulse rate, pneumonia (caused by inhalation of vomit while under sedation).
- Death due to complications of gastroscopy is extremely rare.
What can you expect after a Gastroscopy?
You will be cared for until most of the effects of the medications have worn off.
You can usually eat and drink normally afterwards unless otherwise instructed.
Your doctor will explain the results of the examination and will inform you of any follow up you require either in his rooms or with your general practitioner.
Occasionally minor problems may persist such as mild sore throat, bloating or cramping however these should disappear in approximately 24 hours.
What must I do to stay safe?
For your safety you must:
- Be taken home by a responsible person
- Have a responsible adult care for you that day/night or be on hand in case of any problems
- Not drive a car or motorcycle (this is against the law) or operate machinery until the following day (12hours) or for as long as your doctor or sedationist advises.
- Not make any important decisions or sign any contracts within 12 hours of the procedure (the medication used may impair judgement)
- Not drink any alcohol for 12 hours post procedure
- Not participate in strenuous activities for 12 hours
What should I watch for?
Contact your doctor immediately if you:
- Feel generally ill with or without headache, chills or muscle aches
- Have a high temperature/fever
- Have trouble swallowing
- Are dizzy, short of breath or feel faint
- Start to get sharp pains in the throat, chest or stomach or begin vomiting