If you’re scheduled for an upper endoscopy here at Mountain View Endoscopy Center, odds are you’ve experienced discomfort or symptoms in your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, more commonly called the digestive tract. The best way to perform a thorough examination of that part of your body is to use a diagnostic procedure called an upper endoscopy, which uses a tube and a camera to gain images of the upper GI tract’s interior linings and tissues.
Why is an Upper Endoscopy Performed?
In most cases, patients referred to Mountain View Endoscopy Center are experiencing one or more of the following:
- Inexplicable difficulty swallowing
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Continuous upper abdominal pain
- Persistent pain or discomfort in the deep throat or esophagus
Upper endoscopies are the best way to identifying the cause of bleeding in the upper abdominal tract, and they are more successful than ultrasound images when it comes to detecting inflammation, tumors or ulcers in the esophagus, upper stomach and the duodenum (the first and shortest section of the large intestine).
In addition to providing images, which are transmitted in real time to the doctor’s monitor, an upper endoscopy can provide other functions:
- Biopsy. If the doctor notices growths or abnormal tissue, he may use a tool on the scope to remove all or a small portion of the tissue for biopsy in the lab. This biopsy may be used to look for the presence of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria known to cause ulcers, or it may be used to determine whether a tissue is benign or malignant.
- Cytology test. While the scope is in your upper GI, the doctor has the ability to perform a cytology test, which is like a biopsy for cells. The scope has a small brush, which is used to collect cell samples for further analysis.
- Treatment. If your doctor can identify exactly what is wrong and is able to administer an immediate treatment he will. Often, this is done by passing treatment-specific tools through the scope. These can be used in multiple ways including the removal of polyps or growth, to treat bleeding, or to dilate (stretch) a narrow area of the esophagus or a sphincter to increase comfort and function.
If biopsies are required, tissue samples are sent immediately to the lab and we will contact you with the results as soon as we have them.
Preparing For an Upper Endoscopy
The good news for an upper endoscopy is that preparation is much more simple than the prep for a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. To examine the upper GI, we simply ask that your stomach be as empty as possible.
In most cases, this requires completely abstaining from both food and beverages for at least six hours before the procedure is scheduled. This includes drinking water. Your doctor will give you more specific instructions since fasting times and specifics may vary depending on your symptoms and medical history.
During your pre-endoscopy consultation, the doctor will require a complete list of all medications you are taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and supplements. Depending on your medications, you may be required to stop taking them for several days or hours before your endoscopy as some meds can interfere with the process or increase the chances of complications. This is especially true for medicines such as aspirin or anticoagulants, antiplatelet meds, certain arthritis medications, insulin and others. Any allergies should be well-documented as well.
What Happens During the Endoscopy?
The endoscopy itself is a fairly straightforward procedure. On average, the test takes about 15 to 20 minutes total. You will be asked to disrobe and wear a hospital gown. Eye glasses and dentures should also be removed. The doctor will answer any last minute questions you may have.
When you are ready, you will lay down on your left side and the staff will make sure you are comfortable. You will be given a mild pain reliever and sedative through an IV in your arm and a local anesthetic may be sprayed into the throat to eliminate your gag reflex.
Once you are relaxed and comfortable, the doctor will insert a mouth piece that helps direct the scope down your throat and prevents you from inadvertently biting down on it. The scope will be passed slowly through your throat, esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Some of our patients say they feel mildly uncomfortable, most don’t feel anything at all, and a fair percentage have been known to drift off or fall asleep in the middle.
Once the upper endoscopy is complete, the scope will be removed and you will be moved into a recovery room where we can monitor you as the sedative wears off. Someone will need to be available to drive you home afterwards because the sedative remains in the system for several hours afterwards and will impair your reflexes and judgement.
After the Upper Endoscopy
When you are alert again, the doctor will discuss what he saw during the scope as well as any actions or treatments that were taken. If a biopsy or cytology tests are sent to the lab, our office will contact you as soon as we receive the results. In almost all cases, you should be able to drink and eat as soon as you are released.
There are very few complications reported from endoscopies. Bleeding may occur from any site where a biopsy was taken although this is typically very minimal and will resolve itself within a short amount of time. A very rare complication would be a tear or perforation as a result of the scope. This would require surgical intervention but, again, is exceptionally rare.
You should contact your doctor if you develop a fever, pain in the upper GI tract, swelling, bleeding or difficulty swallowing within the first several days after the procedure.
The doctors here at Mountain View Endoscopy Center are highly trained professionals and they excel at what they do. Our ultimate goal is to perform safe and comfortable diagnostic and treatment-based procedures that are in the best interest of our patients’ overall health and well-being. Contact our office to schedule a consultation or to learn more about upper endoscopy.