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Upper GI Endoscopy

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Dr. Ken D. Nguyen is the president and co-founder of Pacifica Digestive Health. His clinical interests include screening and management of gastric cancer in Asian patients, viral hepatitis (including hepatitis B and hepatitis C), advanced liver disease and cirrhosis, colon cancer screening, and international medicine.

Pacifica Digestive Health Patient Education - Upper GI Endoscopy (EGD)

What is an Upper GI Endoscopy (EGD)?

An Upper GI Endoscopy, also called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), is a procedure that diagnoses and treats issues in the small intestine, esophagus, and stomach. A biopsy can also be carried out to look for microscopic evidence of disease.

What is the Purpose of an Upper GI Endoscopy?

An upper GI endoscopy provides your doctor with a direct view of the upper digestive system that otherwise would not be able to obtain using conventional x-ray tests. Your doctor will use the endoscopy and may take biopsies to test for health issues such as acid reflux/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, celiac disease, nutritional deficiencies, cancers and tumors, and infection such as H. pylori.

An upper GI endoscopy may also be carried out to find out why you are exhibiting certain symptoms such as:

  • Persistent heartburn

  • Bleeding

  • Vomiting

  • Persistent upset stomach

  • Pain

  • Weight loss

  • Problems with swallowing

The procedure may also be carried out to treat health issues such as narrowing of the esophagus (strictures), bleeding ulcers and blood vessels, or removal of objects or food that are stuck.

The procedure can be carried out at an ambulatory surgery center or a hospital depending on the anticipated complexity of the case and if you have any major medical problems. This procedure can also be performed in the office, but nowadays very few practices offer this procedure in the office.

How Do I Preparation For an Upper GI Endoscopy?

Before an upper GI endoscopy is carried out, you will need to take steps to get ready for the procedure. These include:

  • Informing your doctor of any medication you may be taking. This includes prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, supplements and vitamins You should also ask him if you need to take a break from medication just before the procedure.

  • Disclose any preexisting conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung conditions or implants such as pacemakers or blood clotting issues.

  • Disclose previous surgeries done on the stomach or intestine, swallowing problems that may need special care.

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night prior to your procedure.

  • Ensure that you have someone to drive you home after the procedure. If you are given a sedative and you will not be fit to drive afterward.

  • Sign a consent form.

What Should I Expect During an Upper GI Endoscopy?

  • An Intravenous line (IV) may be started to give you fluids and medication to block pain and make you sleepy.

  • The back of your throat may be sprayed to numb it and a plastic bite block placed between your teeth.

  • The endoscope (a long, finger-width thin, flexible tube with a camera on one end) will be carefully passed through your mouth into your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum.

  • A biopsy may be carried out. That is, a small piece of tissue is taken to be studied under a microscope. This is painless.

  • The endoscope may sometimes be used to treat some problems.

  • The endoscope will be removed and you will wake up in recovery after the medications wear off.

What Are the Risk and Complications of an Upper GI Endoscopy?

An upper GI endoscopy is a very safe and straight-forward procedure with little or no complications. Very rarely complications may occur, which may include bleeding and perforation (or having a hole in the digestive tract). If any complications were to occur, the doctor performing the procedure can fix the complicating during the procedure. In very rare cases, you may require surgery to fix the complication.

What Should I Expect After an Upper GI Endoscopy?

After the procedure, a doctor or nurse will review the results of the endoscopy with you and give you recommendations for the next steps. You may feel some minor issues such as a mild sore throat, swelling, gas or mild cramps immediately after the test. These issues should clear completely after 24 hours. Your doctor will let you know what and when you can eat and drink. You also cannot drive after your procedure because of the sedation you received. You should plan to resume your normal activities 24 hours after your exam. If you were on any blood thinners prior to your procedure and they were held, you will be provided with instructions on when to resume them. If a biopsy was carried out, you will be informed by your doctor or his/her office by phone or with a letter in the mail explaining the results and recommended next steps.

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