Those Three Little Words: Upper Intestinal Endoscopy

Last updated: Jul 26, 2014 at 9:17am

Upper intestinal endoscopy may not be the most romantic of terms, but it is one that you may have heard from your doctor. So, what does it mean?

Upper Intestinal Endoscopy, also known as Upper GI Endoscopy, is a minimally invasive procedure that allows a doctor to examine the upper portion of the intestinal system using an endoscope – a tiny camera attached to a flexible tube. During the procedure a gastroenterologist will gently guide the endoscope through the upper digestive system using a video monitor and controls, which allows him or her to examine the tissue and structure of the upper digestive system.

Why would my doctor recommend an upper intestinal endoscopy? 

An upper intestinal endoscopy allows doctors to diagnose and possibly treat certain disorders in the upper intestinal tract. Doctors may recommend this procedure to investigate the causes of:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Anemia
  • Prolonged nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in bowel movement

Preparing For an Upper Intestinal Endoscopy

Your doctor should review the procedure with you prior to the event in order to answer any questions you may have. Be sure to inform your doctor of any and all medications and allergies you may have. Your physician will need to know if you have any medical conditions effecting your lungs or heart.

It is very important that for at least eight hours prior to the procedure you do not have anything to eat or drink (except for small drinks of water if you need to take medication). Not eating or drinking ensures a more clear pathway for the endoscope and allows the doctor an unobstructed view of the intestinal tract.

What happens during the procedure?

During the procedure it is important to remain relaxed, and your doctor will try to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. Most of upper intestinal endoscopies are performed under conscious sedation. This means you will be awake throughout the procedure, but you may not remember parts or all of it. You will be given a sedative intravenously in your hand or arm, and you will be closely monitored. This sedative will not cause you to lose consciousness, but you will make you relaxed and likely drowsy.

It is common to have patients gargle with a local anesthetic or spray in the back of the throat to prevent a ‘gag reflex’ from being triggered. This makes passing the endoscope down the esophagus much more comfortable.

Once you are comfortable your doctor will begin the procedure by passing the endoscope through your esophagus and down to your stomach, examining the tissue as the endoscope slowly advances. You should not feel any pain during the procedure and your breathing will not be effected, though it is common to feel pressure as the endoscope moves from the stomach into the lower intestine. From here any diagnostic maneuvers will be done and the doctor may perform therapeutic maneuvers as well. Once this is complete the scope will be gently drawn out of your mouth.

This procedure takes anywhere from 15-40 minutes.

What happens after your procedure?

Directly after the procedure you will feel the effects of the local anesthetic and the sedative wear off:

  • Sore throat
  • Sensitive gag reflex
  • Bloating or nausea

It can take about 1 to 2 hours for sedation to wear off, but you should not drive the same day of your procedure. It is recommended that you rest for the remainder of the day.

Here is a medical brochure of this information, prepared by MUSC: Upper Endoscopy PDF

If you have any questions please contact us today. We’re happy to help.