Upper GI Endoscopy
The term “endoscopy” refers to a special technique for looking inside a part of the body. “Upper GI” is the portion of the gastro-intestinal tract, the digestive system, which includes the esophagus, the stomach, and the duodenum, the beginning of the small intestine. The esophagus carries food from the mouth for digestion in the stomach and small intestine.
Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist, a well-trained specialist who uses the endoscope to diagnose and, in some cases, treat problems of the upper digestive system.
The endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end. By adjusting the various controls on the endoscope, the gastroenterologist can safely guide the instrument to carefully examine the inside lining of the upper digestive system.
The high-quality picture from the endoscope is shown on a TV monitor; it gives a clear, detailed view. In many cases, upper GI endoscopy is a more precise examination than X-ray studies.
Upper GI endoscopy can be helpful in the evaluation or diagnosis of various problems, including difficult or painful swallowing, pain in the stomach or abdomen, and bleeding, ulcers and tumors. Tiny instruments can be passed through an opening in the endoscope to obtain tissue samples, coagulate (stop) bleeding sites, dilate or stretch a narrowed area, or perform other treatments.
During the Procedure
During the procedure, everything will be done to ensure that you will be as comfortable as possible. An intravenous line, or IV, will be placed to give you medication to make you relaxed and take a nap.
A supportive mouthpiece will be placed to help you keep your mouth open during the endoscopy. Once you are fully prepared, your gastroenterologist will gently maneuver the endoscope into position.
As the endoscope is slowly and carefully inserted, air is introduced through it to help your gastroenterologist see better. During the procedure, you should feel little to no pain and it will not interfere with your breathing.
Your gastroenterologist will use the endoscope to look closely for any problems that may require evaluation, diagnosis or treatment.
In some cases, it may be necessary to take a sample of tissue, called a biopsy, for later examination under the microscope. This, too, is a painless procedure. In other cases, the endoscope can be used to treat a problem such as active bleeding from an ulcer.
Years of experience have proved that upper GI endoscopy is a safe procedure. Typically, it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to perform.
Complications rarely occur. These include perforation, puncture of the intestinal wall that could require surgical repair, and bleeding, which could require transfusion. Again, these complications are unlikely; be sure to discuss any specific concerns you may have with your doctor.