What is a gastroscopy (upper GI endoscopy)?

A gastroscopy is often referred to as an endoscopy. Endoscopy is an umbrella term that describes all types of investigations that are done in the digestive system using an endoscope (a long, thin, tube with a minute video camera at one end which can relay images or video taken inside the body).

Endoscopy is now a well-accepted method of investigating problems with the digestive system, right from the mouth to the anus (where stools are passed from). It includes the following techniques:

  • Gastroscopy: endoscopic examination of the oesophagus (the long, muscular tube connecting your mouth and stomach and also known as the gullet), stomach and just the first part of the small bowel.
  • Capsule endoscopy: use of a pill-sized, video imaging, wireless capsule containing a camera that is swallowed. Images are transmitted to a receiver as it passes through the body.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): a technique that is used to examine the pancreatic and bile ducts.
  • Small bowel enteroscopy: a long endoscope examines the full length of the small bowel, further than the gastroscopy.
  • Colonoscopy: a colonoscope is inserted through the anus and used to examine the large bowel, and can usually be passed into the lower end of the small bowel if needed.

An overview of gastroscopy

Gastroscopy is usually done to investigate symptoms so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. You may be advised to have a gastroscopy if you have:

  • Chest pain that has nothing to do with your heart.
  • Problems with acid reflux, heartburn, a persistent sore throat, cough or asthma.
  • Vomiting, especially if it contains blood.
  • Problems with swallowing.

These can be due to:

  • An inflamed oesophagus.
  • A peptic ulcer in the stomach or the duodenum.
  • Inflammation of the duodenum.
  • Inflammation of the stomach.
  • A tumour in the oesophagus, stomach or small bowel.
  • Rare conditions, such as polyps and other abnormalities in the small bowel.

Having a gastroscopy: what to expect

Before your gastroscopy you will need to have an empty stomach, which probably means not eating on the day of the procedure. You will not need a laxative.

At The London Clinic, you can choose to have sedation during a gastroscopy. Most patients opt for this as it makes the procedure easier and more comfortable especially  when the gastroscope is passed into their throat.

The whole procedure is completed in under half an hour. If you have had sedation, you will need to recover for a while until you no longer feel drowsy. You should have someone drive you home, or accompany you home, and ideally stay with you until the next morning. We advise patients not to drink alcohol, use machinery or make important decisions until 24 hours after having sedation. If you do not have sedation, you will be back to normal almost immediately.

Results from a gastroscopy

At The London Clinic, our leading gastroenterology consultants perform gastroscopies and will be able to discuss their visual findings as soon as you feel able. If biopsies are sent to our laboratories for analysis results can usually be expected within a few days.

You may then have a consultation to discuss all of your results, to find out about your diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options.