Upper endoscopy, also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD, is a diagnostic procedure used to visually examine and diagnose certain conditions of the upper gastrointestinal, or digestive tract. The upper gastrointestinal tract includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, or upper part of the small intestine.
Upper endoscopy is performed using a flexible tube with an attached light and camera, called an endoscope. It is inserted through the mouth and guided along to thoroughly examine the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Candidates for Upper Endoscopy
Patients experiencing any signs of digestive problems, such as difficulty swallowing food, unexplained weight loss, nausea or vomiting, are usually considered good candidates for upper endoscopy. However, before undergoing the procedure, the doctor should be made aware of the presence of any pre-existing or current medical conditions that may affect the patient's eligibility for an upper endoscopy, including: pregnancy, allergies to medication, lung conditions, heart conditions, or diabetes.
Benefits of Upper Endoscopy
Upper endoscopy can be extremely beneficial for identifying and treating various conditions that affect the upper digestive tract, including anemia and cancers of the digestive system. It offers the advantage over surgical techniques that it requires no incisions or stitches.
Upper endoscopy is usually recommended for investigating troublesome digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bleeding, nausea, difficulties swallowing, vomiting, heartburn and ulcers. Upper endoscopy is also used to treat certain problems of the digestive system, which may involve cauterizing blood vessels to stop bleeding or widening a narrow esophagus.
During the upper endoscopy procedure, tissue samples can also be obtained for biopsy, matter lodged in the gastrointestinal tract can be removed and therapeutic procedures may be performed. Upper endoscopy may also be combined with other imaging procedures, such as an ultrasound.
The Upper Endoscopy Procedure
Patients who have a weakened immune system may need to take antibiotics prior to undergoing an upper endoscopy procedure. For about four to eight hours before the upper endoscopy, patients are restricted from eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum. Necessary medications may still be taken, with only a small amount of water. Driving is not permitted for up to 24 hours after the procedure, so the patient will need to arrange for transportation home.
Upper endoscopy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure at a hospital, surgery center or outpatient clinic. During the procedure, patients are positioned to lie on their back on a table, with sensors attached to the body to monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate. Usually, a numbing medication will be sprayed into the patient’s mouth in preparation for the insertion of the endoscope. The endoscope will then be passed through the mouth and guided along the upper gastrointestinal tract, transmitting images on to a video monitor in the treatment room. Any abnormalities found in the digestive tract during the procedure will be recorded.
Recovery from Upper Endoscopy
After the upper endoscopy is completed, the patient will be monitored in a recovery area for approximately 30 minutes. A sore throat is common after this procedure, but it can be soothed with lozenges. With the doctor’s approval, the patient can usually resume their regular activities the next day.
Risks of Upper Endoscopy
Upper endoscopy is generally considered a very safe procedure. However, there are certain risks that may be associated with it, including:
- Complications from the sedatives or medication administered during the procedure
- Low blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Puncture of the gastrointestinal tract
- Difficulty breathing
- Blackened stools
- Persistent pain in the area of the endoscopy
Results of Upper Endoscopy
The results of an upper endoscopy will usually be available immediately after the procedure. The doctor will discuss the results with the patient once the sedative has worn off. If a biopsy was performed during the procedure, the results will be available after the sample has been sent to a pathology lab for more detailed testing. It may take several weeks to obtain the biopsy results from the laboratory, at which point a treatment plan can be determined.