hands holding abdomen

Digestive Health

Gastroscopy

A gastroscopy is a medical procedure where a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is used to look inside the stomach.

The procedure is also sometimes referred to as an upper endoscopy. An endoscope has a light and a camera at one end. The camera sends images of the inside of your body to a television monitor.

A gastroscopy can take about 15 minutes, depending on why it's being used. It's usually carried out as an outpatient procedure, which means that you won't have to spend the night in hospital.

The procedure is often carried out under sedation. You won't be asleep but you'll be very drowsy and have little awareness about what's happening. Alternatively, your throat can be numbed with a local anesthetic spray. The doctor carrying out the procedure will place the endoscope in the back of your mouth and ask you to swallow the first part of the tube. It will then be guided down your esophagus and into your stomach.

A gastroscopy may be recommended if you have symptoms that suggest a stomach problem. This could be difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or persistent abdominal pain. The procedure can be used to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms.

A gastroscopy can also be used to treat various gut-related problems. Tiny tools can be passed down the endoscope to:

  • Repair bleeding ulcers and veins
  • Widen a blocked esophagus (the tube through which food passes to the stomach)
  • Provide nutrition if you're unable to eat food in the normal way
  • Remove non-cancerous growths (polyps) or early-stage cancerous tumors

Preparation Required Before Procedure

If you're referred for a gastroscopy, you'll need to stop taking any prescribed medicines for indigestion at least two weeks beforehand. This is because the medication can mask some of the problems that a gastroscopy could find. You can continue to take antacids up until your endoscopy.

If you're taking any of the following medications, you should phone the endoscopy unit before your appointment because special arrangements may need to be made:

  • Any medication that's used to treat diabetes, such as insulin or metformin
  • Blood-thinning medication (used to prevent blood clots), such as low-dose aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel

Don't wear nail polish on the day of your appointment because it can interfere with a device that's attached to your finger to monitor your oxygen levels.

It's important that your stomach is empty so that the whole area can be seen clearly. You'll be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your gastroscopy.

After the procedure, you should not eat or drink anything for at least an hour.