Gastroscopy or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is a procedure to visualise the inside of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). It involves the use of a thin flexible tube called an endoscope that is inserted through the mouth to reach the intestines. The endoscope contains a camera and light source to provide a clear magnified view of these structures. Instruments may be inserted through the endoscope to carry out certain procedures.
A gastroscopy may be performed for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons. It can be used to determine the cause for abdominal pain or swallowing difficulties. It can identify stomach ulcers, polyps, tumours and complications of conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Along with high definition assessment of the lining of the intestines, biopsies of the lining of the bowel may be taken to aid diagnosis. Endoscopic surgery involves the use of instruments passed down a narrow channel in the endoscope. This may be used to clear an oesophageal blockage, treat a bleeding ulcer, remove a tumour or place a stent or balloon to open up a narrowing.
Gastroscopy is normally performed as an outpatient procedure. You will have the choice of a sedative to keep you comfortable or anaesthetic throat spray (most opt for the sedative). The endoscope is then introduced through your mouth and you are asked to swallow the tip of the tube. The tube is then slowly guided down your oesophagus, through your stomach into the duodenum (first part of your intestine). Your doctor carefully evaluates the lining of these structures as the scope passes through and if possible treatment is performed through the scope. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes or longer if a corrective procedure is being performed.
The procedure is usually quite safe but may rarely be associated with certain complications such as;
- A sore throat for 24 hours after the procedure
- Reflux of stomach contents to the lung which can cause pneumonia
- Damage to the inner lining of the intestine, from biopsy sites that can cause bleeding. Perforation of the stomach or oesophagus can occur, as a result of therapeutic procedures.