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Gastroscopy is a test that examines your upper digestive tract. The upper gastrointestinal tract refers to this area.

It includes your:

  • Food pipe (oesophagus)
  • Stomach
  • The first part of the small intestine (small bowel).

During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube is passed through your mouth and down your food pipe. This tube has a light on the end.

At no time does the tube interfere with your breathing. The tube passes down your food pipe, not your windpipe. When we put the tube into your throat this may make you gag or retch, but that improves when the tube reaches your food pipe.

Sometimes, we take small samples of tissue and send them to be checked in a laboratory. This is known as a biopsy. The samples that we take are about the size of a matchhead and do not cause you any pain. However, you might feel a slight tugging sensation.

Gastroscopy is a quick procedure. It takes about 5 to 15 minutes.

If you need treatment during gastroscopy, your consultant will tell you whether the procedure will take longer. They explain what to expect.

Why you might need a gastroscopy

A gastroscopy can help monitor a long-term condition. It can also help find the cause of your digestive symptoms, such as:

  • pain in your upper tummy (abdomen)
  • difficulty swallowing
  • indigestion that keeps happening
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • bleeding
  • heartburn

A gastroscopy can help to diagnose:

  • ulcers
  • inflammation
  • infection
  • helicobacter pylori (bacteria that can cause ulcers, a condition called gastritis when your stomach lining is inflamed and stomach cancer)
  • coeliac disease (when you cannot digest a protein called gluten)
  • cancer

We can also do a gastroscopy to check for a digestive condition previously diagnosed.

During the procedure

You will have the test in one of the procedure rooms. You will be asked to remove your shoes, loosen any tight clothing, and remove your false teeth and glasses. You need to keep your belongings with you at all times.

A needle is used to insert a small tube into your arm or hand if you choose to have sedation. We give you an injection through this tube.

Otherwise, we will give you a local anaesthetic spray to make the back of your throat numb. This reduces the feeling (sensation) in your throat. You still get the sensation of gagging and retching. This is a natural response to the tube touching the back of your throat.

You lie on your left side on a trolley. A nurse stays with you throughout the test.

To keep your mouth slightly open, we put a mouthpiece between your teeth. The nurse might hold the mouthpiece in your mouth. They have a device called a sucker to remove any saliva in your mouth.

We gently put the tube into your mouth through the mouthpiece and pass it down into your stomach. The endoscopist pushes some air down the tube to get a clearer view. This might make you feel slightly bloated (when your stomach feels full), but it is not painful.

Sometimes, we take small tissue samples. This is called a biopsy. We remove the tissue through the tube using tiny forceps (a pair of pincers or tweezers). Rarely, this might be uncomfortable but the discomfort should pass quickly. You will probably only feel a tugging sensation.

The test usually lasts 5 to 15 minutes. When it is finished, we remove the tube quickly and painlessly.

Recovering after the procedure

You cannot eat or drink anything until you can swallow normally again. This usually takes about 45 minutes. You can then eat and drink as normal unless the consultant or nurse tells you otherwise.

Recovering after sedation

After the procedure, we take you to the recovery area to rest quietly. The nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse and let you know when you are ready to leave the hospital. You are offered a hot drink and biscuits if allowed.

You need to arrange for a family member or friend to take you home about 1 hour after the procedure. They need to come with you for the appointment or be available to contact you by phone when you are ready to leave.

Someone also needs to stay with you overnight. You cannot drive or operate any machinery for the rest of the day. You need to rest quietly at home.

If you have not arranged for someone to come with you or collect you, we cannot give you sedation. Your procedure might be cancelled. If you cannot arrange for someone to collect you, please contact us to talk about other arrangements.

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Average procedure duration 5 to 15 minutes

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

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