What is an upper GI endoscopy?
An upper gastrointestinal (or GI) endoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine, called the duodenum. The esophagus is the tube that carries food to your stomach. The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube that bends. It is called an endoscope, or scope.
The doctor puts the tip of the scope in your mouth and gently moves it down your throat. The scope is a flexible video camera. The doctor looks at a monitor (like a TV set or a computer screen) as he or she moves the scope. A doctor may do this procedure to look for ulcers, tumors, infection, or bleeding. It also can be used to look for signs of acid backing up into your esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. The doctor can use the scope to take a sample of tissue for study (a biopsy). The doctor also can use the scope to take out growths or stop bleeding.
How do you prepare for the procedure?
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
Preparing for the procedure
- Do not eat or drink anything for 6 to 8 hours before the test. An empty stomach helps your doctor see your stomach clearly during the test. It also reduces your chances of vomiting. If you vomit, there is a small risk that the vomit could enter your lungs. (This is called aspiration.) If the test is done in an emergency, a tube may be inserted through your nose or mouth to empty your stomach.
- Do not take sucralfate (Carafate) or antacids on the day of the test. These medicines can make it hard for your doctor to see your upper GI tract.
- If your doctor tells you to, stop taking iron supplements 7 to 14 days before the test.
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
- If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
What happens on the day of the procedure?
Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
At the hospital or surgery center
Bring a picture ID.
The test may take 15 to 30 minutes.
The doctor may spray medicine on the back of your throat to numb it. You also will get medicine to prevent pain and to relax you.
You will lie on your left side. The doctor will put the scope in your mouth and toward the back of your throat. The doctor will tell you when to swallow. This helps the scope move down your throat. You will be able to breathe normally. The doctor will move the scope down your esophagus into your stomach. The doctor also may look at the duodenum.
If your doctor wants to take a sample of tissue for a biopsy, he or she may use small surgical tools, which are put into the scope, to cut off some tissue. You will not feel a biopsy, if one is taken. The doctor also can use the tools to stop bleeding or to do other treatments, if needed.
You will stay at the hospital or surgery center for 1 to 2 hours until the medicine you were given wears off.
What happens after an upper GI endoscopy?
After the test, you may belch and feel bloated for a while.
You may have a tickling, dry throat or mouth. You may feel a bit hoarse, and you may have a mild sore throat. These symptoms may last several days. Throat lozenges and warm saltwater gargles can help relieve the throat symptoms.
Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
Your doctor will tell you when you can go back to your usual diet and activities.
Don't drink alcohol for 12 to 24 hours after the test.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
- You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.
Where can you learn more?
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