Upper Endoscopy (also known as EGD, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy) is a procedure that enables your doctor to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine). A bendable, lighted tube about the thickness of your little finger is placed through your mouth and into the stomach and duodenum.
Reasons for an Upper Endoscopy
Upper endoscopy is performed to evaluate a variety of persistent symptoms, including upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, heartburn, or weight loss. It is an excellent method for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. It is more accurate than X-rays for detecting inflammation, ulcers or tumors of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Upper endoscopy can detect early cancer and can distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous conditions by performing biopsies of suspicious areas. A biopsy is taken for many reasons and does not mean that cancer is suspected. However, before undergoing the procedure, the doctor should be made aware of the presence of any pre-existing or current medical conditions that may affect the patient’s eligibility for an upper endoscopy, including pregnancy, allergies to medications, use of blood thinners, among others.
Preparing for an Upper Endoscopy
The stomach should be completely empty. You should have nothing to eat or drink for approximately 8 hours before the examination. Your doctor will be more specific about the time to begin fasting depending on the time of day that your test is scheduled. Medication may need to be adjusted or avoided. It is best to inform your doctor of ALL your current medications as well as allergies to medications a few days prior to the examination. Most medications can be continued as usual. Medication use such as aspirin, Vitamin E, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, blood thinners and insulin should be discussed with your doctor prior to the examination. You will most likely be sedated during the procedure and an arrangement to have someone drive you home afterward is imperative. Sedatives will affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day. You should not drive or operate machinery until the next day.
The Upper Endoscopy Procedure
You will be laid on your side or back in a comfortable position as the endoscope is gently passed through your mouth and into your esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Air is introduced into your stomach during the procedure to allow a better view of the digestive tract lining. The procedure usually lasts 3-15 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing. Patients are sedated for the procedure.
Recovery from Upper Endoscopy
You will be monitored in the endoscopy area until the effects of the sedatives have worn off. You may feel bloated immediately after the procedure because of the air that is introduced into your stomach during the examination. You will be able to resume your diet and take your routine medication after you leave the endoscopy area, unless otherwise instructed. Your doctor will usually inform you of your test results on the day of the procedure, unless biopsy samples were taken. These results take several days to return. If you do not remember what your doctor told you about the examination or follow up instructions, call your doctor’s office to find out what you were supposed to do.
Risks of Upper Endoscopy
Upper endoscopy is generally considered a very safe procedure. However, there are certain rare risks that may be associated with it, including:
- Complications from sedatives
- Chest pains
- Puncture of the gastrointestinal tract
- Difficulty breathing
- Blackened stools
- Persistent pain in the area of the endoscopy