What is Gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy is a medical diagnostic endoscopy procedure done at a gastroenterology clinic or hospital, that enables your doctor to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and the first segment of the small intestine (duodenum). It is performed in the endoscopy medical suite.
A soft, flexible tube much thinner than a finger is gently inserted into the mouth and advanced in. With the use of a video camera, Gastroscopy enables your doctor to perform medical diagnostic tests and examine the upper gastrointestinal tract, and to propose medical treatment if necessary.
In Singapore, gastroscopy is one of the medical services that ranks among the most frequently requested. The gastroscopy process is used to observe and subsequently search for threats to the health condition of the gullet, stomach and parts of the small intestine, using a device called a gastroscope. Gastroscopes feature a pliable tube with a camera system built in to capture images of the interior of the digestive system. These images are then sent to the video display attached to it and studied by the attending physician to ascertain the digestive system’s health. The gastroscope also has various tools that enable it to aid treatment procedures like removal and biopsy of polyps.
It’s performed by a gastroenterologist, a highly trained doctor with many years of practical experience under his/her belt. It’s normally carried out in the endoscopy facility, though sometimes, this medical procedure can also be performed in an operating theatre. In general, the procedure is performed under anaesthesia. You will be asleep during the entire process and won’t feel a thing.
The majority of the time, gastroscopy is superior as compared to images produced from X-rays, since the doctor or gastroenterologist can observe the site and structures in greater detail.
Who should undergo Gastroscopy in Singapore?
In Singapore, gastroscopy is typically performed to ascertain risks to the patient’s health. These can include:
- Gastric/stomach cancer screening.
- Patients with ulcers / polyps.
- Evaluation of upper abdominal discomfort and pain.
- Anemia or gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Problems with swallowing.
- Reflux and heartburn symptoms.
- Unexplained weight loss
How do I prepare for one?
In a general sense, the stomach must be completely emptied of food and liquid for the Gastroscopy. This involves fasting for at least 6 hours before you arrive at the medical centre or hospital for your procedure.
An empty stomach allows good visualization and reduces the risk of vomiting during the procedure. If there is food present, the procedure will have to be postponed.
Most medications are safe to continue for the procedure. You should discuss this with your doctor prior to the examination, especially if you are taking any blood thinners, warfarin, aspirin or diabetes medication.
How is Gastroscopy performed?
A local anaesthetic spray is administered to numb your throat after which, you may be given light sedation to make you more comfortable.
The doctor will slowly advance a gastroscope through your mouth and down into your stomach. The examination is completed in about 10 minutes.
You may experience mild bloating or belching as air is inflated to distend the stomach. The procedure is well tolerated, pain free and does not affect your breathing.
What makes a successful gastroscopy?
In a general sense, how well the gastroscopy proceeds hinges primarily on the physician or gastroenterologist performing the procedure. The physician must be properly trained in an established institution while building up experience with the procedure. If you don’t know any gastroenterologists personally, then it would be best to search for the services a gastroenterology clinic or a medical centre that provides such diagnostic services.
A gastroenterologist has to have a strong habit of documenting and having the ability to envision the digestive tract during the process when performing a gastroscopy. To help with this, a generous amount of photos are taken, meticulously recording of the interior structures of the portion of the gastrointestinal tract being examined during the search for abnormalities. This goes without saying, but the pictures should show their respective portions and subjects clearly. After which, a good gastroenterologist or specialist should clearly label and denote the pictures for better sorting and referencing.
The procedure is performed under sedation. As such, pain or discomfort will be unlikely during gastroscopy. Though there may be risks to sedation as well, the attending physician should always be on a lookout of any early signs of abnormalities.
Seldomly, complications occur in the gastroenterology clinic or medical centre during a gastroscopy that necessitates medical treatment or equipment that is only available at a hospital. Should you be undergoing gastroscopy in Singapore, the physician should always ensure that there is ready transport and access to the facilities in a hospital if ever required.
What are the risks?
In a general sense, gastroscopy is a very safe procedure. Medical complications are rare, but can occur. These include bleeding from a biopsy site, perforation or aspiration of stomach contents. Aspiration risk is minimized by fasting. Some patients might have reactions to the sedation.
It is important to contact your doctor if you experience symptoms of severe chest/abdominal pain, fever or bleeding
What happens after Gastroscopy?
You will be observed until the sedation has worn off, after which you will be discharged home. Do not drive or operate machinery till the next day, as the sedatives used will impair your reflexes.
You may experience mild bloating from the air placed in the stomach. This will improve when you pass the gas. 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 normal activities the next day.