Gastroscopy involves the use of a flexible tube to examine the upper intestinal tract including the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The procedure is commonly undertaken if your doctor suspects that you have an ulcer, inflammation or other abnormality of the oesophagus (the pipe which connects the throat to the stomach), the stomach or duodenum.
How are you prepared?
You need to fast for six hours before the procedure. While fasting, take all your regular medications with a sip of water.
If you have serious heart or chest problems special precautions need to be taken to reduce any possible risk. You should therefore inform your doctor of any serious illness of this nature. The precautions taken will usually include providing oxygen during the procedure and/or monitoring the heart and oxygen levels during the procedure.
What do we do?
An endoscope is a flexible tube about 9mm in diameter. It allows full colour inspection of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. It also allows biopsies to be taken from the small bowel and other areas.
At the beginning of the procedure your throat will be sprayed with a local anaesthetic and you will be given a sedative by injection in a vein to make you more comfortable. The procedure will take between 5 and 15 minutes and you will be sleepy for about half an hour afterwards.
Safety and risks
Gastroscopy is usually simple and safe. It is unlikely to cause problems for patients unless they have serious heart or chest problems.
Extremely rarely, individual patients may have a reaction to the sedation or damage to the oesophagus at the time of examination. The gastroscope is a complex reusable instrument, which cannot go through a heat sterilisation process. However, after each use it is thoroughly cleaned and then disinfected, using a high level disinfectant. The hospital cleans and disinfects the gastroscope according to the standards set by the Gastroenterological Society of Australia. The possibility of infection being introduced during the procedure cannot be completely ruled out, but seems extremely rare. Death is a remote possibility with any interventional procedure. However, if you wish to have full details of all possible rare complications discussed before the procedure, you should inform your doctor.Afterwards
The sedative painkiller you are given before the procedure is very effective in reducing any discomfort. However, it may also affect your memory for some time afterwards. Even when the sedative appears to have worn off, you may find you are unable to recall details of your discussion with your doctor. For this reason a relative or friend should come with you if possible. You must not drive or operate machinery or make major decisions for 12 hours after the test.
If after the test you have any symptoms that cause you concern, you should contact the Hospital or your own Doctor.
Created 28 July 1997
Updated 14 May 2010