What Can I Expect From An Upper GI?

In the past, diagnosing issues in the upper digestive tract often required highly invasive exploratory surgery, followed by months of downtime for recovery. Today, technology has made it possible to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum using an endoscope during a procedure known as a gastroscopy, or endoscopy. Officially named an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, the endoscopic screening is also sometimes called an EGD. Used primarily as a diagnostic tool, this procedure is minimally-invasive.

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Why Do I Need An Upper GI?

There are a large number of digestive symptoms that may warrant an upper GI. Your doctor will recommend the procedure based on your symptoms and medical history. The most common issues that are investigated through an EGD include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic heartburn or acid reflux
  • Unexplained stomach pain
  • Possible ulcers in the stomach
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea that does not respond to treatment
  • Chronic constipation
  • Rapid, unintentional weight loss
  • Severe anemia
  • Blood in the stool or vomit

EGDs are typically performed by specialists, often colon and rectal surgeons, who have extensive training and experience in endoscopic exams and treatment of problems within the digestive tract. In most cases, there will be well-trained technicians and nurses who also assist with the procedure. Because of the training required, these procedures are most frequently done in a hospital or specialist’s private practice.

What Is The Procedure Like?

Compared to the colonoscopy, which is a similar procedure to screen for problems in the lower digestive tract, there is little preparation required for an upper GI. In most cases, you will probably be asked to fast for 8 to 12 hours before your appointment. Your doctor will give you precise instructions when you schedule your appointment. In many cases, you may be allowed to consume clear liquids. In others, all liquids, chewing gum and smoking may be disallowed until the procedure is completed. Preparation may also include stopping prescription medication or over-the-counter drugs for several days or a week beforehand.

Typically only IV sedation is necessary. In some cases, the endoscopy is done under general anesthesia. This is rare, however. Based on the type of sedation used and how quickly you recover from it, you may not be allowed to drive for up to 24 hours. You will need to arrange for a ride home, at minimum.

During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your left side on the exam table. Once the sedative has taken effect, the doctor or a trained technician will begin slowly feed a small flexible tube with a camera and a light on the end into your mouth. Since you are asleep, this should not bother you.

The doctor and his team will carefully observe the lining of your throat, esophagus, stomach and the first section of your intestines by watching a monitor connected to the scope. This live video feed allows them to look for abnormalities that could be causing your symptoms.

Using tiny forceps that can be fed through the endoscope, the doctor can take tissue samples that aid in the quest for a diagnosis. These biopsies are then sent to a laboratory where they can be examined under a microscope or otherwise tested to determine their composition, and whether they contain malignant cells or may be pathological in nature.

Depending on what is found during the test, the endoscope may also be used during treatment. In fact, some conditions may be treated as soon as they are recognized during the initial upper GI. This includes removal of foreign bodies stuck in the throat, or stopping any minor bleeding due to various causes.

Once the doctor is satisfied he has thoroughly examined the upper digestive tract, or he has found the cause of your symptoms, he will slowly begin to gently pull back on the endoscope, removing it from your throat. In most cases, this entire process is brief, often less than 5 minutes.

How Quickly Will I Recovery From An Endoscopic Exam?

In general, recovery time for an upper GI endoscopy is fairly short. The sedation used is normally the key in how quickly you can resume normal activities. Most doctors recommend not returning to work or driving until the following day, because sedation can cause dizziness and disorientation for several hours following the procedure. The most common other complaint is a mild sore throat, although this rarely lasts for more than 48 to 72 hours.

Your recovery and aftercare instructions may vary based on your individual situation and any other procedures that were performed in conjunction with the endoscopic exam. For this reason, it is important to review all aftercare instructions given by your doctor.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates perform a number of endoscopic procedures, including esophagogastroscopy. They are specialists in all diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. By calling (310) 273-2310, you can schedule a confidential appointment and discuss any of your questions with your physician.

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