7 Tips to Prepare for an Endoscopy
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Ease Your Anxiety With These Endoscopy Prep TipsThe term “endoscopy” commonly refers to a nonsurgical way to examine the digestive tract, particularly the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. During an endoscopy, the doctor will pass a flexible instrument with an attached camera down the esophagus, through the stomach, and into the upper portion of the small intestine (the duodenum).
Preparation for endoscopy usually requires discontinuing certain medications and stopping food and drink within a specified time. These tips and information can help you prepare for an endoscopy and relieve any anxiety about the procedure.
1. Follow your doctor’s instructions.Prior to an endoscopy, your doctor will provide you with written instructions that detail the steps to take to prepare for the procedure. Usually the process involves discontinuing (stopping) certain medications on a particular timeline. Every doctor may have different preferences, so even if you’ve had an endoscopy before, you should read and follow the doctor’s instructions very carefully. If you have questions about any endoscopy prep information, call your doctor’s office for clarification.
2. Tell your doctor about any blood thinners you take.Endoscopies carry some risk of bleeding: the tip of the scope may scratch tissues that line the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum or the doctor may need to remove polyps or tissue samples for biopsy. If you take any anticoagulant (“blood-thinning”) medications, this bleeding can become serious. Be sure to tell your doctor if you routinely take aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, warfarin, or any other drug that slows blood clotting. You’ll need to stop taking these medications in advance of the procedure, and your doctor can tell you when and how to do that.
3. Know when to stop eating and drinking.Most people receive sedation to make an endoscopy more comfortable, but sedation increases the possibility of stomach contents refluxing into the esophagus and being breathed into the lungs. For this reason (and to get the best look at your stomach lining), your doctor will want you to stop eating and drinking several hours before the procedure. This timing will vary depending on when your procedure is scheduled. Doctors typically ask that you stop eating or drinking at least eight hours before the endoscopy, but follow your doctor’s specific instructions.
4. Ask for your endoscopy results in writing.Depending on the purpose of the endoscopy, your doctor may have results for you immediately. For instance, if a stomach ulcer was observed, your doctor can convey this as soon as you wake up. However, during sedation, most people receive a medication that disrupts short-term memory. You might feel alert in the moment as you’re recovering from an endoscopy, but later you’ll have forgotten everything about that encounter. Be sure to ask your doctor to provide written results and discharge instructions that you can refer to as often as necessary.
5. Arrange for someone to drive you home.If you receive sedation medications for an endoscopy, you should not drive yourself home. You should arrange for someone else to transport you to the procedure and back home afterwards. In general, recovery from an endoscopy is quick with mild discomfort. It is also recommended to have someone at home with you after endoscopy to help you follow the post-procedure instructions and to call the doctor if you develop a complication like bleeding. A trusted family member or friend can help keep you comfortable and manage any minor discomfort that arises.
6. Prepare for mild discomfort after endoscopy.As a minimally invasive procedure, endoscopy causes much less discomfort than an open surgery, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be pain-free afterwards. Many people report uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, sore throat, or temporarily impaired swallowing after endoscopy. If you anticipate these discomforts, you can plan ahead to treat them. Use only over-the-counter pain medications approved by your doctor. Try comfort care like eating ice pops for sore throat and walking around regularly for bloating. These symptoms should clear up within a day or two.
7. Know when to call the doctor.Rarely, an endoscopy causes serious complications. Be sure to call your doctor right away if you experience:
- Bloody or tarry stool
- Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Loss of consciousness or altered mental state (such as delirium)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Throat pain that gets worse instead of better
For symptoms of heart attack, call 911 immediately. These types of life-threatening complications are rare after endoscopy, but they can happen. Don’t hesitate to take action to safeguard your health.
Endoscopy Preparation | 7 Tips to Prepare for an Upper Endoscopy