Gastroscopy

Gastroscopy is an examination of the esophagus (swallowing tube or gullet), stomach and the first part of the small intestine, called duodenum. It is performed by using a thin, flexible fibre-optic instrument, gastroscope that is passed through the mouth and allows the doctor to see the lining of the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and duodenum.

Reasons for Gastroscopy

Gastroscopy is performed for:

  • Persistent or recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Prolonged symptoms of indigestion, bloatedness, nausea, vomiting.
  • Severe or frequent heartburn or reflux.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Vomiting blood, or coffee-ground materials.
  • Passing of black or "tarry" stools.
  • Anaemia, loss of appetite or weight without known reason.
  • Screening for gastric cancer.

The stomach must be completely emptied of food and liquid before the procedure. This involves fasting for at least 6 hours before gastroscopy.

An empty stomach allows the endoscopist to see clearly the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum and reduces the risk of vomiting during the procedure.

If there is food present, gastroscopy has to be postponed. If you are taking any long-term medication, especially blood thinners, warfarin, aspirin or diabetes medication, you should inform the doctor before the procedure.

How is Gastroscopy Performed?

After explaining the procedure, the nurse will spray the back of your throat with a local anaesthetic to make it numb. The procedure is painless and is usually done under a light sedation.

A nurse will help you to lie on the left side and the doctor will then gently place the end of the gastroscope into the mouth and may ask you to swallow it, which feels like swallowing a large piece of food.

You may experience mild bloating or belching as the gastroscope will “blow” air into the stomach. This will improve when you pass the gas. Gastroscopy is well tolerated, pain free and does not affect your breathing.

The endoscopist will closely examine the lining of the gullet, stomach and duodenum to identify the cause of the symptoms. If necessary, a biopsy (a small piece of the lining of the stomach) will be taken for further examination, such as testing for bacteria Helicobacter pylori or histology (examining under the microscopy).

The entire procedure will take about 10 minutes.

What Happens After Gastroscopy?

You will be observed until the sedation has worn off, after which the doctor will explain you the result of gastroscopy and you will be discharged home.

Do not drive or operate machinery till the next day, as the sedatives used will impair your reflexes.

Sometimes, a mild sore throat is experienced and it will resolve in a few days. You will be able to eat normally the same day and resume your usual activities the next day.

Is Gastroscopy Safe?

Gastroscopy is a very safe procedure. Minor complications are uncommon and major complications are very rare. Some patients might have reactions to the sedation.