Author: OncoLink Team
Content Contributor: Allyson Distel, MPH
Last Reviewed: April 03, 2024

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a medical test that uses a thin tube, with a camera attached to the end (endoscope) to look at hollow organs in the body. There are different types of endoscopy, such as:

  • Upper Endoscopy – looks at the esophagus, stomach, and some of the small bowel.
  • Lower Endoscopy – looks at the colon and rectum. It can also be called a colonoscopy.
  • Bronchoscopy – looks at the lungs.
  • Cystoscopy – looks at the bladder.

This article will focus on upper endoscopy, which looks at the upper GI tract. Your provider may suggest you have an upper endoscopy if you are having symptoms such as pain, nausea and vomiting, bleeding, low red blood cell count, trouble swallowing, or unexplained weight loss.

How do I prepare for an endoscopy?

Your provider will look at your medical history, allergies, and current medications. Be sure to tell your provider if you are taking any blood thinners, as these may have to be stopped a few days before the test. You will be told how to prepare for the test, but in general, you should not eat for at least 6-8 hours before the test.

How is this test done?

An intravenous line (IV) will be placed. You will be asked to lie on your side on a table and you will be asked to put a plastic bracket between your teeth. This helps keep your mouth open. You will be given a sedative through your IV to help you relax and not remember the test. After you are sedated, the provider will put the endoscope through the bracket in your mouth, and into the esophagus, and other organs so that your provider can see them.

The endoscope has a light, a camera, and biopsy tools attached to it if a biopsy needs to be done. The test takes about 30-60 minutes. You will likely be at the endoscopy facility for many hours. This is because it takes time to get ready for the test and to fully wake up after it is done.

What to expect after the endoscopy?

You should not drive yourself home after the test because of the sedative. You may feel bloated and/or nauseous, which will resolve over the next few hours. You may have a sore throat from the endoscope, which will also go away.

How do you get the results of your endoscopy?

Often, your provider will talk to you about the test findings before you go home. A pathologist will look at any biopsies that were taken. The results of this are often available in 7-10 days. Your care provider will be able to talk about these results with you.

When to contact your care provider:

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • Difficulty swallowing or throat pain that becomes worse, rather than better.
  • Blood in your vomit or bloody bowel movements. This can be bright red, look like coffee grounds, or look black and tarry.
  • New stomach pain.
  • Fever.

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Endoscopic Procedures. 2014.

MedLinePlus (2016). Endoscopy.

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