Your doctor has suggested that you have an upper GI endoscopy. For that purpose, you are referred to a specialist, usually a gastroenterologist, who is trained to do the procedure.

The following describes what to expect when undergoing this procedure. This is a general discussion. You must discuss the test thoroughly with your endoscopist before the test is scheduled to allow for variances in specific facilities and for any medical requirements that you may have.

Where

The test should be done in a licensed facility. The endoscopy staff is specially trained and the unit must be equipped with suitable emergency equipment in the rare event that it is needed. Such facilities require a hospital setting, or a freestanding clinic facility, usually staffed by gastroenterologists.

What

Endoscopy is an examination using a tube-like device with a light on the end. A camera at the end of the tube transmits the lighted image before the tube to a "TV" screen so the the examiner can see the inside of the upper gastrointestinal tract as the tube advances. At the examiner’s end of the instrument, there are controls that direct the other end, pump air into the stomach, clear the view with water, or suck out unwanted content.

By tradition, "endoscopy" or "upper GI endoscopy" refers to the examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract: the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The correct term is esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), so you can see why we stick with "upper GI endoscopy."

When

An endoscopy is indicated when there are upper gastrointestinal symptoms that are unexplained or unresponsive to trials of diet modification or drugs. The most common indications are dyspepsia (upper abdominal pain), persistent heartburn, acute bleeding from the upper gut, and anemia.

Less common reasons for the test are an abnormal upper gut x-ray, difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, or when your doctor has reason, such as a strong family history, to think that you are at risk to develop an esophageal or gastric cancer.

The most common findings are a gastric (stomach) or duodenal (first part of the small intestine) ulcer or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus).

Certain other procedures might be done in conjunction with an endoscopy including a biopsy, or dilation (stretching) of an abnormal narrowing in the esophagus or duodenum. Sometimes small polyps can be removed using a snare-cautery device. If a disorder of intestinal absorption is suspected the duodenum may be biopsied through the endoscope in order to diagnose celiac disease.

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