A gastroscopy (also referred to as an endoscopy) is a special procedure using an endoscope (a long thin and flexible tube with a tiny video camera on the end) that a doctor uses to examine your esophagus (the part of your body that connects your throat and stomach), stomach and duodenum (the first and shortest part of your small intestine.)
Why do I need a gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy is used to diagnose or rule out:
- Acid reflux disease
- Inflammation such as gastritis or duodenitis
- Celiac disease
- Hiatal hernias
Any of the following reasons might cause your doctor to order a gastroscopy:
- Recurring indigestion or heartburn
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
It is not uncommon for a doctor to request a gastroscopy in conjunction with a colonoscopy. In the past, stomach and other digestive problems might have been investigated by a barium-swallow x-ray. The advantage of a gastroscopy, however, is that it is much more accurate and it gives the doctor the opportunity to do a biopsy at the same time.
Why do I have to wait so long for a gastroscopy?
As a result of rationing of care by the Canadian public health system, you may have to wait for others ahead of you in line, particularly if your case is deemed “not urgent” or “elective.” Because stomach problems have such a high impact on quality of life, we believe a doctor’s request for tests should be responded to immediately. Timely Medical Alternatives will help you find a private clinic to expedite your diagnosis so you can get appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
What will happen during a gastroscopy?
A gastroscopy is not surgery – instead, it is a procedure. The doctor will likely begin by spraying the back of your throat with a local anesthetic to create a numbing effect. You may also be given a sedative to help you relax. This will be administered through an IV –a needle to your arm or back of your hand. You will lie on your side on an examining table and be asked to put a plastic mouth guard between your teeth. (This protects both your teeth and the endoscope.)
The doctor will then insert the tube into your mouth and ask you to swallow it. The tube is thin and will likely be no more difficult to swallow than a large piece of food. The tiny camera will then transmit pictures of your esophagus, stomach and duodenum to a large computer screen that the doctor can view. The scope is flexible so it can move around corners and the doctor may also inflate your stomach with additional air, to improve visibility.
Sometimes during a gastroscopy the doctor may decide to take tissue samples for testing in the lab later. These are called biopsies and they are painless.
The procedure itself usually takes 30 minutes or less.
What happens after the procedure?
Following your gastroscopy you will be tired and groggy from the sedation. You should arrange for someone else to drive you home. The doctor will send a report with his or her findings to your doctor – if lab work is required, this may take a few weeks.