What is Gastroscopy?

Gastroscopy (also known as panendoscopy or upper endoscopy) is the technique which allows examination of the oesophagus (or swallowing tube), the stomach and the duodenum (or the first part of the small intestine).

It utilises a technique known as fibre optics where a thin flexible tube about the diameter of the index finger is inserted over the tongue, down the back of the throat and into the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The instrument will not cause vomiting or retching and will not interfere with your breathing. Oxygen is administered throughout the procedure. The image will come up on a video screen.

No special preparation is required for this technique, but you will be given separate instructions regarding fasting. The technique is performed under light sedation or a light general anaesthetic and should not cause you any distress or harm.

Is the procedure safe?

All of these techniques are remarkably safe, but there is a very small risk of causing perforation or haemorrhage at gastroscopy, particularly if procedures such as oesophageal dilatation are performed. Again these complications are remarkably rare.

The instruments are sterilised meticulously using a combination of manual cleaning and disinfection in an automated specially designed washing machine between patients. This is considered the world’s best practice and should ensure safety against transmission of bacteria and viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Although gastroscopy is currently the best method available for examining the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum, as for any diagnostic test, in rare instances potentially important disease processes can still be missed.

When is Gastroscopy indicated?

Gastroscopy is particularly useful in investigating patients who either have swallowing problems, heartburn or indigestion, nausea or vomiting, or upper abdominal pain. It is probably the most accurate way of diagnosing reflux oesophagitis, hiatus hernia, gastritis, or gastric or duodenal ulcers.

Biopsy specimens are often taken for the bacteria known as Helicobacter Pylori. Gastroscopy is also useful in diagnosing cancers of the oesophagus or stomach where biopsies can be taken at the same time.

What other procedures may be done at the same time?

Other procedures can be performed at the same time including taking biopsies or specimens of the oesophagus, stomach or duodenum, and other more specialised techniques such as stretching or dilating any narrowing of the oesophagus. Abnormally enlarged veins in the oesophagus (varices) can be ligated with rubber bands, or injected, and bleeding ulcers can also be injected to stop further bleeding.

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