An endoscopy (gastroscopy) is a procedure performed by a specialist. It involves taking a look at the upper portion of your digestive tract. To do this, the doctor inserts a camera attached to a long flexible tube down your food-pipe (oesophagus) into your stomach, and possibly into the upper section of your small intestine (the duodenum).
Fasting before the test
You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the procedure.
- For a morning procedure, you will fast overnight
- For an afternoon procedure you will probably fast from breakfast onwards
- If the procedure is going to happen in the evening (for example after you finish work), you will probably eat a light early lunch and then not eat again until after the test is complete.
Should you be awake or asleep?
The procedure can be quite uncomfortable but is generally painless. People often describe a feeling of choking during the test. Some people are not bothered by this at all. Others are! Interestingly, people know themselves quite well. If you are relaxed about having an endoscopy, you will probably be fine having it awake. If you are nervous, you are probably well advised to be sedated for the test.
If you prefer to be awake, you will be given a numbing spray in your throat to minimise discomfort, and allow easy passage of the camera down your oesophagus. You can discuss the results with the doctor immediately afterwards and can go home within 15-30 minutes of having the test done.
Most people prefer not to be too aware of the test. If this applies to you, then ask the doctor for a sedative drug. These medicines make you very deeply relaxed and sleepy. The vast majority of people have no recollection of the test afterwards. The sedative effect usually only lasts for 30-60 minutes, although you cannot drive a car for the rest of the day as your reaction times are slowed for some hours.
If you have a sedative, you may be too drowsy to discuss the results of the test with the doctor on the same day. Curiously, you may appear to be wide awake and have a sensible conversation with the doctor after the test, only to forget everything you talked about a little while later!
The endoscopy test
Once the camera has been inserted, the doctor will then observe, and possibly photograph or take biopsies of your oesophagus, stomach and/or duodenum for signs of disease. Possible findings include:
- irritation of the stomach lining (gastritis)
- gastric or duodenal ulcers (the collective term is peptic ulcers)
- infections in the small bowel, such as with the parasite, giardia lamblia – giardia is an important and easily treatable form of intermittent diarrhoea
- inflammation, particularly in the oesophagus – called oesophagitis
- pre-cancerous conditions such as Barrett’s oesophagus
- rarely, cancer can be found
The doctor will use these observations to decide on a diagnosis/treatment plan for you, or may want to send you for further tests.
If you choose to be made sleepy for the endoscopy (gastroscopy) test, you will be monitored for a short time before you go home. You must ensure you have someone with you for the rest of the day and overnight. You won’t be allowed to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 24 hours.
At the London Gastroenterology Centre, we have expert consultants who offer the endoscopy test. Call our office on 020 7183 7965 to make an appointment, or visit our contact page. Find out about our consultants here. We can do your private endoscopy at the best hospitals in London.