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Endoscopy – A Gastrointestinal Diagnostics Procedure

Endoscopy is the medical procedure used to examine the upper digestive system, which includes the interior lining of the esophagus, the stomach and the first part of the duodenum or small intestine. It is also referred to as upper endoscopy or gastrointestinal endoscopy.

The device uses an endoscope, a thin and flexible tube, equipped with a camera and a light source. The tube is inserted through the patient’s mouth and slid down the throat until the upper gastrointestinal tract. Since the endoscopy examines the GI tract, the procedure is also called esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).

The upper endoscopy procedure besides diagnosing sometimes also treats gastrointestinal diseases and conditions affecting the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. It also reveals problems that X-ray tests does not show, including -

  • Ulcers
  • Inflammation
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Polyps

Upper Endoscopy Is Recommended For

Endoscopy sometimes treats condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract, but usually the procedure is performed to -

  • Detect symptoms – causing digestive illnesses such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea bleeding.
  • Diagnose – through the collection of tissue samples (biopsy), to test conditions such as bleeding, anemia, inflammation, cancers in the digestive system.
  • Treat – burning, burning vessels, narrow esophagus, removing polyps and foreign objects.

Additionally, the endoscopy procedure is combined with other procedures such as –  

  • Narrow band imaging, especially efficient to detect precancerous conditions (Barret’s esophagus).
  • Ultrasound, which uses a probe to create specialized HD images of the walls of the stomach, the esophagus and pancreas.

Risks of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Small risks exist while performing the upper endoscopy procedure such as bleeding, especially when removing a piece of tissue is required for testing (taking biopsy) or a digestive problem.

Infections are rare too, but the risks increase when additional procedures are required. They are easily treated with antibiotics or they are given prior to the procedure.

One major complication is tearing the gastrointestinal tract, which requires surgery. It is very rare to happen only occur to 5 out of 10,000 patients.

Preparing for the Endoscopy Procedure

In order to prepare you for and endoscopy procedure, the medical specialist will instruct you to fast before the procedure and to stop taking blood-thinning medication one week prior. If the patient has a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, instructions concerning specific medication will be given too.

As the examination involves discomfort and provokes sickness, patients receive sedative to relax during the procedure. The effects will last several hours after the endoscopy procedure, so to facilitate the recovery, make sure that someone can accompany you to the medical facility and do not plan any demanding tasks for that day.

How Endoscopy is Performed?

Patients lie on a table sideways. Monitors are attached to check heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Sedative is administered through an injection in the arm. Some anesthetics are also applied in the mouth to numb the throat. During the endoscopy, air pressure and some movement is felt in the digestive tract.

If tissue samples should be taken or polyps extracted, the doctor will use special surgical tools. After the exam, the endoscope is retracted. Patients are kept in lying position for an hour to regain strength and consciousness.

Results of Upper Endoscopy

Depending on the patient’s situation, getting the results may take between a few days in case of a biopsy, and a couple of weeks in case of polyp extraction. In some cases, for example when the doctor is looking for an ulcer, the result is immediate and the patient can find out more about his condition right after the procedure.

If you are expected to have an endoscopy procedure, always ask the doctor about:

  • The type of procedure you are having (if it is a mixed procedure
  • About the risks of your condition in particular
  • The time it takes to access the results from the lab.