Reasons Doctors May Recommend Upper Endoscopy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Describing symptoms to a doctor

The term endoscopy refers to examining the internal organs using a camera and light source attached to a thin, flexible tube (the endoscope). A colonoscopy is an endoscopy, and laparoscopy may also be considered endoscopy.

But healthcare providers frequently use the single term “endoscopy” to refer to an examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract. You may hear doctors and other clinicians call this procedure:

  • EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy)
  • Panendoscopy
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal)

All of these terms refer to a procedure in which a doctor looks at the linings and other structures of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). Sometimes doctors perform an abbreviated version of the procedure called esophagoscopy, which looks only at the esophagus.

An upper endoscopy offers a non-invasive way for doctors to diagnose and treat many common conditions that affect the upper GI tract.

Why You Might Need an Endoscopy

Both adults and children may need to undergo an upper endoscopy procedure from time to time. A doctor might recommend an upper GI to diagnose or treat:

  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Cancers or precancerous conditions like Barrett’s esophagus
  • Foreign bodies in the esophagus or stomach
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Narrowing of the esophagus
  • Ulcers

Doctors can perform an upper GI endoscopy to remove objects swallowed by children, obtain tissue samples for biopsy, dilate (stretch) narrowed segments of the esophagus, and remove polyps or other abnormal structures in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The endoscopy biopsy is one of the more common procedures of an upper GI and helps your doctor identify cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract, for example.

Before an endoscopy, you likely will receive light sedation to keep you relaxed during the procedure. Your doctor may also spray the inside of your mouth with a numbing agent to suppress your gag reflex. Once you are prepared, the doctor will pass the endoscope through your esophagus and stomach, to the duodenum (the upper portion of the small intestine).

Benefits of Endoscopy

Endoscopy allows your doctor to view the structures of your upper GI tract without having to perform surgery. As a minimally invasive procedure, endoscopy has many benefits that include:

  • Ability to treat common GI conditions at the time of diagnosis, without the need for a separate procedure
  • Minimal discomfort after the procedure
  • Quick recovery
  • Very low risk of infection

Depending on why you’re undergoing an upper GI, you may receive your endoscopy results immediately following the procedure. For instance, the doctor may be able to let you know right away that he or she identified a gastric ulcer, or that the coins swallowed by your child were all removed from the stomach successfully.

If your doctor removed tissue samples for biopsy, you may have to wait some period of time for the results. This varies, based on the microscopic examination required. Your doctor will let you know when you can expect to hear the results of your endoscopy.

You should have little or no pain during recovery. You will need someone to drive you home if you received sedation. You may be able to return to normal activities immediately, or your doctor may give you specific post-endoscopy instructions. Be sure to follow these to avoid any potential complications, such as bleeding.

For most people, endoscopy is an uneventful, efficient way to check for common digestive conditions, such as an ulcer or GERD, with little downtime letting you quickly return to normal life.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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