An upper endoscopy, also referred to as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is a minimally invasive procedure used to evaluate the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The upper part of the gastrointestinal tract includes the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, which is the upper part of the small intestine. During the procedure, a long, thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is passed through the patient’s digestive system. The endoscope has a small light and camera on the end. This projects images onto a monitor for the physician to view. During the endoscopy, instruments can be passed through the endoscope to pull tissue samples or perform other procedures. Endoscopies are fast, outpatient procedures that generally only take about a half-hour to forty-five minutes.
An endoscopy can serve many purposes, including diagnosing symptoms of chronic upper abdominal pain, upset stomach, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing. The benefit of the procedure is that it can be used to assist in treating many different conditions. For example, instruments can be passed through the endoscope to stretch or dilate a narrow area of the GI tract to remove polyps or treat abnormalities; all without causing the patient any considerable discomfort. Upper Endoscopy is also known to be more accurate than X-rays when being used for diagnosing ulcers, tumors, and pinpointing the cause of bleeding in the upper GI tract. This procedure may also be used to perform a cytology test, in which a small brush is used to collect cells for analysis, similar to a biopsy.
During the procedure, the physician may choose to take a tissue sample, otherwise known as a biopsy, of any area that he or she feels may need further examination. These samples help the physician determine if the cells tissue is benign or malignant (cancerous). However, biopsies are not always ordered to test for cancerous cells and should not automatically cause concern. For example, polyps, though typically benign, are commonly removed during an endoscopy. Physicians may also order a biopsy to diagnose Helicobacter pylori, which is a type of bacterium that will cause ulcers.
Patients will be sedated intravenously before their endoscopy and will relax and doze during the procedure. It is normal for patients to be able to follow commands and breathe on their own but have no recollection of the procedure.
As mentioned, endoscopies are performed as an outpatient procedure, and patients can go home shortly afterward. This is as long as there are no complications. Immediately following the procedure, patients will spend time in the recovery area until the sedation wears off. Because sedatives were administered, someone will have to drive the patient home and stay with them until they are awake and alert. Additionally, the throat may feel scratchy or uncomfortable, but this sensation should be gone after a day or so.
Endoscopies are known for being very safe, but it is still important to know the warning signs of possible complications. In the event of a developed fever, difficulty swallowing, throat chest or abdominal pain, bleeding, or black stool, contact the center or physician immediately. It is possible for bleeding to occur several days after the procedure. Any concerns should be addressed as soon as possible in order to treat any early signs of issues as a direct result of the procedure.