What is an upper GI endoscopy?

An upper GI endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) is a procedure to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract. The upper GI tract includes your esophagus, stomach and the first part of your small intestine. Physicians perform an endoscopy using a long, flexible tube called an endoscope; the tube has a tiny light and a video camera on one end. The tube is put into your mouth and throat, and then it is slowly pushed through your esophagus and stomach and into your small intestine.

An endoscope can be used to take tissue samples or GI fluid samples. An upper GI endoscopy may also be done to check your stomach and small intestine after a surgery. Your physician may have other reasons to recommend an upper GI endoscopy.

Video images from the tube are seen on a monitor. Small tools may also be inserted into the endoscope to be used to:

  • Take tissue samples for a biopsy
  • Remove things such as food that may be stuck in the upper GI tract
  • Inject air or fluid
  • Stop bleeding
  • Do procedures such as endoscopic surgery, laser surgery or open a narrowed area

Why is an upper GI endoscopy being performed on me?

  • An upper GI endoscopy can be used to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI tract. It is often used to find the cause of unexplained symptoms such as:
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Upper belly or chest pain that is not heart-related
    • Continuous vomiting for an unknown reason
    • Bleeding in the upper GI tract
  • An upper GI endoscopy can be used to identify disorders or problems such as:
    • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease Narrowing or blockages
    • Larger than normal veins in your esophagus
    • Redness, swelling, and ulcers
    • Tumors, either cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign)
    • The stomach moving upward, either into or next to your esophagus
    • Damage caused by swallowing very harmful substances, such as household detergents and chemicals
    • Celiac disease
    • Crohn’s disease of the upper GI tract Infections of the upper GI tract
  • An upper GI endoscopy can also treat problems in the upper GI tract. The procedure can be used to:
    • Control bleeding
    • Remove tumors or growths
    • Open narrowed areas
    • Remove things that may be stuck
    • Perform laser therapy
    • Insert a tube used for tube feeding into the stomach
    • Band abnormal veins in your esophagus

How do I get ready for an upper GI endoscopy?

  • Your physician will explain the procedure to you, and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form giving the physician permission to do the procedure; read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear to you.
  • You’ll be asked not to eat or drink for 8 hours before the test; this usually means no food or drink after midnight. You may be given additional instructions about following a special diet for 1 or 2 days before the procedure.
  • Your physician will give you instructions on how to prepare your bowel for the test; you may be asked to take a laxative, an enema or a rectal laxative suppository, or you may have to drink a special fluid that helps prepare your bowel.
  • If you have a heart valve disease, you may be given disease-fighting antibiotics before the test; this may be recommended in certain situations such as when dilation is being performed. It is not needed for a standard upper endoscopy.
  • You will be awake during the procedure, but a sedative will be given before the test to help you relax. Someone will have to drive you home afterward.
  • Follow any other instructions your physicians gives you.

Before your upper GI endoscopy, tell your physician if:

  • You are sensitive or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape and anesthesia medicines (local and general).
  • You’re pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
  • You have a history of bleeding disorders; let him or her know if you are taking any blood-thinning medicines, aspirin, ibuprofen or other medicines that affect blood clotting as you may need to stop taking these before the procedure.

What happens during an upper GI endoscopy?

  • You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. If you wear dentures, you’ll be asked to remove them until the test is over.
  • If you are asked to remove clothing, you’ll be given a gown to wear.
  • An IV will be inserted in your arm or hand, and a sedative will be injected into the IV.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen level will be checked during the procedure.
  • You will lie on your left side on the X-ray table with your head bent forward.
  • Numbing medicine may be sprayed into the back of your throat; this will stop you from gagging as the tube is passed down your throat into your stomach. The spray may have a bitter taste to it; holding your breath while your physician sprays your throat may decrease the taste.
  • You will not be able to swallow the saliva that may collect in your mouth during the procedure, this happens because the tube if in your throat. The saliva will be suctioned from your mouth from time to time.
  • A mouth guard will be placed in your mouth to keep you from biting down on the tube; it also protects your teeth.
  • Once your throat is numbed and the sedative has relaxed you, your physician will put the tube in your mouth and throat, and it will be guided down your esophagus through your stomach and into your small intestine.
  • You may feel some pressure or swelling as the tube moves along. If needed, samples of fluid or tissue can be taken at any time during the test. Other procedures, such as removing blockage, may be done while the tube is in place.
  • After the exam and procedures are done, the tube will be taken out.

Risks of upper GI endoscopy

Some possible complications that may occur with an upper GI endoscopy are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • A tear in the lining of the small intestine, esophagus or stomach

What happens after an upper GI endoscopy?

After the procedure, you’ll be taken to the recovery room to be monitored. Once your blood pressure, pulse and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you’ll be taken to your hospital room, or you may be discharged to your home. If you are going home, someone must drive you.

You won’t be allowed to eat or drink anything until your gag reflex returns; this is to prevent you from choking. You may have a sore throat and pain for a few days when you swallow; this is normal.

You may feel gassy after the procedure.

You can go back to your normal diet and activities unless you have other instructions.

Your physician may give you other instructions depending on your situation.

Call your physician if you have any of the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling or bleeding or other drainages from the IV site
  • Belly pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Black, tarry or blooding stools
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Throat or chest pain that gets worse