A gastroscopy is done to look inside the esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. An endoscopist (specialist nurse) or doctor will perform the test. The device used for this procedure is called an endoscope or gastroscope. It is a long and flexible tube with a light and tiny camera at the end.
Gastroscopy is sometimes called esophageogastroduodenoscopy (OGD) or endoscopy. The procedure can be done for various reasons.
When is Gastroscopy Needed
A gastroscopy may be requested when the following symptoms are present:
- Passing black stool
- Blood in the stool
- Abnormal bleeding
- Drastic weight loss
- Persistent heartburn or indigestion
- Painful or difficulty swallowing
Regular gastroscopy is required when a patient has Barrett’s esophagus. The procedure is done to monitor any changes in the cells found in the food pipe’s lining. During the procedure, biopsies (tissue samples) will be taken of abnormal looking areas. The sample will be sent to the laboratory and examined under a microscope.
Preparing for Gastroscopy
Blood tests might be required prior to the procedure to check how well the blood clots or the blood levels. Patients who are taking medications that can affect blood clots should inform their doctor about it.
Those who are scheduled for gastroscopy will not be allowed to eat for six hours before the procedure. However, they will still be allowed a few sips of water up until two hours prior to the procedure. They will also be given detailed written instructions by the nurse or the doctor.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Gastroscopy is an outpatient procedure so the patient can go home the very same day. The procedure is very short (often lasting approximately 15 minutes). However, patients will be asked to stay in the hospital for a few hours after the procedure.
Prior to the procedure, the nurse will ask about any allergies that the patient has. Their medical history will also be looked into. The heart rate and blood pressure of the patient will also be checked.
The endoscopist or nurse will explain the procedure one more time before asking patients to sign the consent form. This would be the ideal time for patients to ask any last questions they may have about the procedure.
Patients are typically awake during the test. However, they can also ask to be sedated. For patients who wish to have the test while they are awake, the throat will be sprayed with an anesthetic. The anesthetic is used to numb the throat so it becomes easier for them to swallow the tube. Patients will then be asked to lie on their side as they wait a few minutes for the throat to go numb.
If they wear glasses or false teeth, they will be asked to remove them before the procedure starts. A plastic guard will also be placed in the patient’s mouth to ensure the teeth are protected from the gastroscope.
The tube is slightly bigger than a pen so it can be uncomfortable. However, it won’t be painful. You will be asked to swallow as the tube will go down. Doctors will be able to view images sent by the gastroscope to a television screen.
A small amount of air may also be sent to the tube to help doctors see the esophagus, duodenum, and stomach better. This can cause a feeling of burping for most patients. Samples or biopsies may be taken if abnormal areas are noticed.
After the procedure, the gastroscope will be gently removed. The endoscopist will also discuss with the patient how the procedure went. They will be informed if any biopsies were taken and when they can expect the results.