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Upper endoscopy

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 26, 2022.

Overview

An upper endoscopy, also called an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system. This is done with the help of a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) uses an endoscopy to diagnose and sometimes treat conditions that affect the upper part of the digestive system.

The medical term for an upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy. You may have an upper endoscopy done in your health care provider's office, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital.

Upper endoscopy

An upper endoscopy procedure involves inserting a long, flexible tube called an endoscope down your throat and into your esophagus. A tiny camera on the end of the endoscope allows views of your esophagus, stomach and the beginning of your small intestine, called the duodenum.

Why it's done

An upper endoscopy is used to diagnose and sometimes treat conditions that affect the upper part of the digestive system. The upper digestive system includes the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).

Your provider may recommend an endoscopy procedure to:

An endoscopy is sometimes combined with other procedures, such as an ultrasound. An ultrasound probe may be attached to the endoscope to create images of the wall of your esophagus or stomach. An endoscopic ultrasound may also help create images of hard-to-reach organs, such as your pancreas. Newer endoscopes use high-definition video to provide clearer images.

Many endoscopes are used with technology called narrow band imaging. Narrow band imaging uses special light to help better detect precancerous conditions, such as Barrett's esophagus.

Gastrointestinal tract

Your digestive tract stretches from your mouth to your anus. It includes the organs necessary to digest food, absorb nutrients and process waste.

Risks

An endoscopy is a very safe procedure. Rare complications include:

You can reduce your risk of complications by carefully following your health care provider's instructions for preparing for an endoscopy, such as fasting and stopping certain medications.

Symptoms that could mean a complication

Symptoms to watch for after your endoscopy include:

Call your provider immediately or go to an emergency room if you experience any of these symptoms.

How you prepare

Your provider will give you specific instructions to prepare for your endoscopy. You may be asked to:

Tell your provider about all the medications and supplements you're taking before your endoscopy.

Plan ahead for your recovery

Most people undergoing an upper endoscopy will receive a sedative to relax them and make them more comfortable during the procedure. Plan ahead for your recovery while the sedative wears off. You may feel mentally alert, but your memory, reaction times and judgment may be impaired. Find someone to drive you home. You may also need to take the day off from work. Don't drive or make any important personal or financial decisions for 24 hours.

What you can expect

During an endoscopy

During an upper endoscopy procedure, you'll be asked to lie down on a table on your back or on your side. As the procedure gets underway:

You can't talk after the endoscope passes down your throat, though you can make noises. The endoscope doesn't interfere with your breathing.

As the endoscope travels down your esophagus:

When the exam is finished, the endoscope is slowly retracted through your mouth. An endoscopy typically takes 15 to 30 minutes.

After the endoscopy

You'll be taken to a recovery area to sit or lie quietly after your endoscopy. You may stay for an hour or so. During this time, your health care team can monitor you as the sedative begins to wear off.

Once you're at home, you may experience some mildly uncomfortable symptoms after endoscopy, such as:

These signs and symptoms will improve with time. If you're concerned or quite uncomfortable, call your health care provider.

Take it easy for the rest of the day after your endoscopy. After receiving a sedative, you may feel alert, but your reaction times are affected and judgment is delayed.

Results

When you receive the results of your endoscopy will depend on your situation. If, for instance, the endoscopy was performed to look for an ulcer, you may learn the findings right after your procedure. If a tissue sample (biopsy) was collected, you may need to wait a few days to get results from the testing laboratory. Ask your provider when you can expect the results of your endoscopy.

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