Everyone experiences stomach problems every now and then. While nausea, vomiting, and a sore throat are common problems, they’re not always the result of a stomach bug. Other symptoms like persistent abdominal pain and bleeding let you know that something much more serious is going on. Endoscopy is designed to figure out the cause of these severe symptoms.
To help you understand endoscopy, we’ve compiled and answered the most common questions about endoscopy. They are:
- What is endoscopy?
- When would I need an upper endoscopy?
- How do I prepare for an upper endoscopy?
- What can I expect during an endoscopy procedure?
- What should I expect after my endoscopy?
- Are there risks associated with endoscopy?
Endoscopy can be an intimidating procedure if you’ve never had one before. Being prepared will make you less nervous, more knowledgeable, and lead to a more positive experience.
1. What is endoscopy?
Upper endoscopy allows doctors to inspect the lining of your upper GI tract. This includes your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum). It can be performed by a gastroenterologist or surgeon.
Upper endoscopy goes by a few different names, but they all mean the same thing — the use of an endoscope to examine the upper GI tract. An endoscope is a flexible tube that has a camera and it’s own light source. As the endoscope passes through your upper GI tract, it sends images back to a video monitor that your doctor examines for abnormalities.
2. When would I need an upper endoscopy?
Endoscopy is used when you experience problems with your upper GI tract. Symptoms can include:
- Persistent upper abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Prior to weight loss surgery
X-rays are standard for a variety of diagnostic purposes so an endoscopy isn’t always necessary. However, they can be beneficial when looking for tumors, ulcers, and inflammation. Endoscopy is also helpful in acquiring a biopsy, or small tissue sample. Biopsies help determine whether tissue is cancerous or benign.
Upper endoscopy is used for treatment as well as diagnosis. Endoscopes give your doctor the ability to send medical instruments into your upper GI tract to treat abnormalities within your body. Discomfort is minimal in these cases.
3. How do I prepare for an upper endoscopy?
When it comes to endoscopy preparation, you’ll need an empty stomach to get the best results and safest examination experience. This means you shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink for about six hours before the exam, including water. Your surgeon here at Evansville Surgical Associates will advise you on when to begin fasting before your procedure.
Your doctor will also want to know about any medications that you take beforehand. Most medications are safe for endoscopy, but others may interfere with the exam and you will need to temporarily adjust your dosage.
These medications can include:
- Blood thinners
- Anything with antiplatelet agents
Let your doctor know if you have any allergies to certain medications, as well as of any medical conditions you may have. Part of your endoscopy prep will be making sure your doctor has all the vital information that they need.
4. What can I expect during an endoscopy procedure?
Your upper endoscopy procedure can be performed at either a hospital or an outpatient center. To help you relax, your doctor will provide you with a sedative before the procedure begins using an IV. The procedure can also be performed without a sedative. The doctor may also provide you with an anesthetic to help numb your throat for the endoscope.
Once any sedatives and anesthetics have been administered, you will be directed to get on the exam table and lie on your side. Your doctor will gently insert the endoscope and slide it down your esophagus to your stomach and duodenum. The doctor will use a video monitor to inspect the lining of your GI tract to check for any irregularities.
Once the endoscope is in place, your doctor can use it to perform different tasks, such as:
- Blocking any bleeding that may be occurring
- Opening up strictures
- Taking a tissue sample for testing
An upper endoscopy usually only lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. Many people worry that the endoscope will affect their breathing. Not only is that not the case, but many people actually fall asleep during their endoscopy! As an added safety precaution, your vital signs will be monitored by staff to ensure that you’re safe.
5. What should I expect after my endoscopy?
While the endoscopy itself usually only lasts a half-hour at most, the effects of the procedure can last much longer. This is mostly due to the sedative if you’re provided one.
Plan to remain at the hospital or outpatient facility for up to two hours as the sedative wears off. These effects can still impede your reflexes and judgment even if you feel fine, so don’t make any big plans for after the procedure. You will also want to recruit a friend or family member to drive you home and help take care of you after the procedure.
Other common side-effects from upper endoscopy include:
- Nausea and bloating
- A sore throat for around 48 hours
- Not being able to eat your regular diet until you can swallow normally
You won’t receive all of your examination results immediately. Your doctor can share those that are available with you, or you may choose to let your friend or family member handle it. Biopsy results will take a few days until they’re ready. You can discuss those results with your health care professional.
6. Are there risks associated with endoscopy?
Complications from upper endoscopy are very low. However, while it’s considered a safe procedure, there are a couple of risks that you should be aware of. These risks include:
- Breathing or heart problems due to the sedative
- Puncturing the lining of the upper GI tract
- Bleeding from where your doctor removes a polyp or takes a tissue sample
Don’t let these risks deter you from getting an endoscopy. Treatment isn’t usually required for bleeding since it often stops on its own, puncturing is rare, and negative reactions to the sedative can be treated during or after the exam.
On the other hand, there are some reactions that require immediate medical attention. These include:
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble swallowing or increased throat pain
- Chest pain
- Bloody or black stool
- Vomiting, especially if it contains blood
It’s important to remember that the risk involved with endoscopy is very low. Make sure to follow all of your doctor’s instructions when preparing for the procedure as well as after.
7. Is endoscopy necessary for bariatric surgery?
While the necessity is being debated, endoscopy as a pre-surgery diagnostic tool may be beneficial for those undergoing bariatric surgery. One recent study found that preoperative endoscopy can help identify problems in obese patients, which can help influence decisions on the form of bariatric surgery they undergo as well as followups.
Endoscopy is used to examine the lining of your upper GI tract when issues like difficulty swallowing and persistent vomiting occur. Preparation for an endoscopy requires fasting from food and liquids, as well as alerting your doctor to any allergies you may have to certain medicines. Make sure you have someone to take care of you after the procedure. While complications from endoscopy are rare, you should still keep an eye out for signs of problems.
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231, or email us with any general questions or comments you may have. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.