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 a number of different types of endoscopy, including:
- Upper Endoscopy – looks at the esophagus, stomach and some of the small bowel.
- Lower Endoscopy – looks at the colon and rectum. Can also be referred to as a colonoscopy.
- Bronchoscopy – looks at the lungs.
- Cystoscopy – looks at the bladder.
This article will focus on upper endoscopy, which visualizes 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 review 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 several days before the test. You will be given specific instructions to follow, but in general you will not be allowed to eat for at least 6-8 hours prior to the test.
How is this test performed?
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 that the physician will pass the scope through. You will be given a sedative through your IV to help you relax. After you are sedated, the provider will insert the endoscope through your mouth, into the esophagus and other organs so that they can be visualized.
The endoscope has a light, a camera and biopsy tools attached to it if there is need for a biopsy to be done. The test takes about 30-60 minutes. Be prepared to be at the endoscopy facility for several hours. This is because you will need to be monitored after the test until you are completely awake. Likely, you will not remember having the test done.
What to expect after the endoscopy?
You should not drive yourself home after the test. You may feel bloated and in some cases nauseous, which will resolve over the next few hours. You may experience a sore throat from the endoscope, which will also resolve.
How do you receive the results of your endoscopy?
Usually the provider will talk to you about the findings of the test before you go home. Any biopsies that were taken will be sent to a pathologist to be reviewed. The results of this are usually available in 7-10 days. Your care provider will be able to discuss these results with you.
When to contact your care provider:
- Chest pain or difficulty 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 appear black and tarry.
- New stomach pain.