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FAQ's For Gastroscopy


What is Gastroscopy?

Gastroscopy is a test where your doctor looks into the upper part of your gut (the upper gastrointestinal tract). The upper gut consists of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The doctor uses an endoscope to look inside your gut. Therefore, the test is sometimes called endoscopy.

An endoscope is a thin, flexible, telescope. It is about as thick as a little finger. The endoscope is passed through the mouth, into the oesophagus and down towards the stomach and duodenum.

The tip of the endoscope contains a light and a tiny video camera so the doctor can see inside your gut. Images and videos seen on the screen can be recorded on a computer using special software, which helps the doctor prepare your report.

The endoscope also has a 'side channel' down which various instruments can pass. These can be manipulated by the doctor. For example, the doctor may take a small sample (biopsy) from the inside lining of the stomach by using a thin 'grabbing' instrument called a forceps, which is passed down a side channel.

Who should get Gastroscopy done?

A gastroscopy may be advised if you have symptoms such as recurring indigestion, recurring heartburn, pains in the upper abdomen, repeated vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or other symptoms thought to be coming from the upper gut. The sort of conditions which can be confirmed (or ruled out) include:
  • Oesophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus).
  • Duodenal and stomach ulcers. Duodenitis and gastritis (inflammation of the duodenum and stomach).
  • Cancer of the stomach and oesophagus.
  • Various other rare conditions.

What happens during a Gastroscopy?

Gastroscopy is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It is a routine test which is commonly done. The doctor may numb the back of your throat by spraying on some local anaesthetic, or give you an anaesthetic solution to swallow. You may be given a sedative to help you to relax. This is usually given by an injection into a vein in the back of your hand. The sedative can make you drowsy but it does not 'put you to sleep'. It is not a general anaesthetic.

You lie on your side on the examination table. You are asked to put a plastic mouth guard between your teeth. This protects your teeth and stops you biting the endoscope. The doctor will then ask you to swallow the first section of the endoscope. Modern endoscopes are quite thin and easy to swallow. The doctor then gently pushes it further down your oesophagus, and into your stomach and duodenum. The video camera at the tip of the endoscope sends pictures to a screen. The doctor watches the screen for any abnormalities Air is passed down a channel in the endoscope into the stomach to make the stomach lining easier to see. This may cause you to feel 'full' and want to belch.

The doctor may take one or more biopsies (small samples) of parts of the inside lining of the gut - depending on why the test is done and what they see. This is painless. The biopsy samples are sent to the laboratory for testing. The endoscope is then gently pulled out.

A gastroscopy usually takes about 3-4 minutes. However, you should allow at least half an hour for the whole appointment, to prepare, give time for the sedative to work (if you have one), for the gastroscopy itself, and to recover. A gastroscopy does not usually hurt, but it can be a little uncomfortable, particularly when you first swallow the endoscope.

What preparation do I need to do?

You should get instructions from the clinic before your test. Instructions given commonly include:
  • You should not eat for 4-6 hours before the test.
  • In case of an early morning appointment, it is advisable not to have anything after midnight. The stomach needs to be empty. (Small sips of water may be allowed up to two hours before the test.)
  • If you have a sedative you will need somebody to accompany you home.
  • If you have a history of heart attack, stroke or TIA, consult with your physician prior to having the gastroscopy, and let the doctor know of your previous medical history and the medications you are presently taking. The doctor will instruct you on which medications are allowed prior to the procedure, and which are not.

What can I expect after a Gastroscopy?

Most people are ready to go home after resting for 15-20 min. You may return to your normal diet immediately once the effect of the local anaesthetic to your throat has worn off. In case any additional procedure has been performed to treat an internal condition during gastroscopy, the doctor will instruct you accordingly. 

If you have had a sedative - you may take a bit longer to be ready to go home. The sedative will normally make you feel quite pleasant and relaxed. However, you should not drive or operate machinery on the day the test has been performed under sedation. Most people are able to resume normal activities after few hours.

The doctor will prepare the report and hand it over to you immediately after the test, and you can discuss the findings and any additional medications that you need to take depending on what the gastroscopy findings are. The result from any biopsy will generally take a few days.

Is Gastroscopy a reliable procedure?

Gastroscopy is an excellent test for seeing abnormalities in the upper gut. However, it is not foolproof. For example, gastroscopy may not detect a small number of cases of early ulcers or early cancer.
Small abnormalities of the inner lining of your gut may be missed if there is food residue inside the stomach; so fasting for the prescribed time of 4-5 hours is essential for a complete and thorough exmaination.
Sometimes a repeat gastroscopy may be advised if symptoms persist or get worse, even if a previous gastroscopy was reported as normal.

Are there any side-effects or complications after having a Gastroscopy?

Most gastroscopies are done without any problem. Some people have a mild sore throat for a day or so afterwards. You may feel tired or sleepy for several hours if you have a sedative. 

Occasionally, the endoscope causes some damage to the gut. This may cause bleeding, infection, and rarely, perforation. If any of the following occur within 48 hours after a gastroscopy, consult a doctor immediately:
  • Abdominal pain. In particular, if it becomes gradually worse, and is different or more intense to any 'usual' indigestion pains or heartburn that you may have.
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting blood
Rarely, some people have an allergic reaction to the sedative. Serious complications are rare in most people who are otherwise reasonably healthy.

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