What is a gastroscopy?

Gastroscopy or “upper gastrointestinal endoscopy” is an examination of the inside of the gullet (oesophagus), stomach (gastrum) and the first part of the small bowel (duodenum). It is performed by using a thin, flexible fibre-optic instrument with a light source and camera at the end, called an endoscope, which the surgeon will pass through the mouth. This allows the surgeon/endoscopist to see whether there is any abnormality of or damage to the lining of the gullet or stomach and whether there are any ulcers in the stomach or duodenum. The procedure is painless and is usually done under a light sedative as a day-case. Occasionally the procedure can be performed without sedation. When sedation is used, the patient will not be able to drive or operate machinery for the rest of the day.

How is a gastroscopy performed?

Once intravenous access is obtained, a trained sedationist or anaesthetist will administer conscious sedation. This is not a full anaesthetic, but you will not experience any discomfort or have any recollection of the procedure. You will be asked to lie on your left side. Once sedated, the surgeon will pass the gastroscope from the mouth to the small bowel in a controlled manner. The procedure takes 5-10 minutes to complete.

Why is gastroscopy useful?

What are the indications for a gastroscopy?

Surgeons may use gastroscopy as either a diagnostic or a therapeutic procedure.

Diagnostic indications:

Patients are most often given a gastroscopic examination because of their indigestion/heartburn symptoms. The gastroscopy can be useful to confirm the presence of inflammation in the gullet and rule out Barret’s disease. Occasionally, the cause of indigestion is an ulcer, and it is now known that many ulcers are due to bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori) in the stomach. A biopsy (a small piece of the lining of the stomach) may be removed during endoscopy and examined under the microscope in the laboratory to confirm a suspected diagnosis. A very small number of patients with indigestion will turn out to have cancer and, again, Dr Cooper may accurately diagnose a condition by doing a biopsy. Further investigation can then be planned to ensure the most effective treatment.

Other diagnostic indications include:

Therapeutic indications:

Gastroscopy has gone from initially being a purely diagnostic procedure to where it has now become an important tool in the treatment of many conditions:

Is a gastroscopy safe?

All procedures carry some risk, but outpatient diagnostic gastroscopy is extremely safe. Minor complications are uncommon, and major complications are almost unheard of.