What is gastroscopy?
A gastroscopy is a procedure in which the oesophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) are examined.
The procedure is performed with the use of an instrument known as a gastroscope. A gastroscope is a thin flexible tube, which has a light and a powerful camera at the end. The camera transmits pictures of the lining of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum to a screen, which allows the endoscopist to view and examine them.
When is a gastroscopy performed?
The procedure is performed in order to check symptoms or to confirm a diagnosis, as well as to treat certain conditions.
A gastroscopy may be recommended for diagnostic purposes in cases of:
- Recurring indigestion
- Recurring heartburn
- Difficulty or pain on swallowing
- Upper abdominal pain
- Repeated vomiting
- Vomiting blood (haematemesis)
- Iron deficiency
- Unexplained weight loss
- Barrett's oesophagus
- Family history of early oesophageal or gastric cancer
- Suspected gastric or duodenal ulcer
- Suspected oesophageal or gastric cancer
What does the procedure involve?
A gastroscopy is a fairly quick procedure and often takes less than 15 minutes to complete, particularly when it is performed to confirm a diagnosis.
The procedure is performed by an endoscopist, who will begin by administering a local anaesthetic spray to numb your throat. In some cases, you will be given a sedative before the procedure begins to ensure that you remain relaxed throughout the process.
The sedative is usually given by a sedation practitioner, who will monitor all of your vital signs and breathing, to ensure you remain relaxed throughout the procedure. This allows your gastroenterologist to focus on viewing the lining of your gastrointestinal tract during the gastroscopy.
Your mouth will be kept open with a plastic mouthguard, and the gastroscope will be inserted gently and under careful vision into your throat and down your oesophagus. Once the gastroscope is inside your body, air may be blown into your stomach. This allows your endoscopist to view any abnormalities in detail. Biopsies are often taken for the pathologist to review if subtle or overt abnormalities are detected during gastroscopy.