An upper endoscopy is a diagnostic test used to examine the upper digestive system – the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum.  The procedure is done by inserting a thin tube with a light and camera at the end through the mouth and into the esophagus.  The images from the camera are viewed on a display screen during the procedure.

Why is an upper endoscopy performed?

An upper endoscopy is used to determine the cause of digestive system symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, heartburn, bleeding and swallowing disorders.  It is frequently used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as ulcers and tumors.

How can I prepare for an upper endoscopy?

In order to achieve accurate results, you must have an empty stomach before the procedure.  You should not eat or drink anything for at least six hours before an upper endoscopy.  Tell your doctor about any conditions or medications you take and he or she will instruct you on how to prepare.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Before the procedure, a local anesthetic will be applied to the back of the throat to relieve pain in the area.  An IV with sedation medication may also be used to relax the patient.  A mouthpiece is also inserted to keep the mouth open during the procedure.  The patient will lie on his or her left side and the doctor will insert the endoscope into the mouth and all the way down to the stomach.  A biopsy may be taken during the procedure to further examine a certain area.  The procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure, the patient will be kept under observation for about 30 minutes while the medication wears off.  Temporary soreness of the throat may occur but is usually relieved quickly.  Most doctors require that patients are driven home because of the use of sedation.  Complications from an upper endoscopy are rare, but if you experience severe abdominal pain, cough, fever, chills or nausea and vomiting, call your doctor immediately.

Lower GI Endoscopy

A lower gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy is a minimally invasive exam used to evaluate the lower portion of the GI tract to help diagnose conditions such as cancer, polyps or inflammation, as well as determine the cause of bleeding or other abnormalities.  This exam may involve a colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy to allow your doctor to visualize the colon and rectum on a computer monitor.

During a lower GI endoscopy, a thin, flexible tube is passed through the anus into the lower GI tract.  Intravenous sedation may be administered to help relieve any anxiety or discomfort about this procedure.  The entire exam usually takes about 15-30 minutes. Results are usually available right away, and your doctor will discuss them with you.  In addition to its diagnostic indications, lower GI endoscopy can also remove polyps or take tissue samples (biopsy) during the same procedure.