Gastroscopy is used for persistent complaints in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The physician can diagnose diseases such as gastric or duodenal ulcer, Helicobacter pylori infection or upper digestive tract bleeding. The gastroscopy can be performed either with or without anesthesia - usually a local anesthesia of the pharynx is sufficient. Learn more about the preparation, course and duration of a gastroscopy.
When is a gastroscopy performed?
A gastroscopy is always useful if there are persistent complaints in the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. These include frequent heartburn, dysphagia or chronic cough. Likewise, a gastroscopy may be useful for pain in the upper abdomen, constant flatulence, persistent nausea, blood in the stool or an unclear weight loss.
A gastroscopy can clarify whether, for example, the following diseases or injuries are present:
- Ulcers in the stomach or duodenum
- Pruning (diverticulum)
- Varicose veins in the esophagus
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori
- internal bleeding in the upper digestive tract.
Preparation for the gastroscopy: Do without food
You do not really have to prepare extra for a gastroscopy. Important for the investigation is only that the upper digestive tract is free of food. That's why you should appear sober for examination. This means that you should not eat or drink eight hours before the examination. If you feel thirsty, you can drink a bit of clear water.
If you are taking blood thinning medications (anticoagulants), you should consult your doctor before the examination. Ask him if and when you should stop taking the medications to avoid internal bleeding.
Course of the gastroscopy
A gastroscopy is today usually performed on an outpatient basis in the hospital or in the office of a gastroenterologist. An inpatient stay in the hospital is rarely necessary. Usually, the examination does not last long, usually it is completed in a few minutes.
For the examination, a so-called gastroscope is used. It is a flexible plastic tube that is about one meter long and has a diameter of less than one centimeter. So you do not bite on the tube, you get a teething ring between the teeth.
The hose is equipped among other things with light and a miniature camera. This allows the doctor to carefully examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum from the inside. The pictures taken by the miniature camera are transferred to a monitor. The doctor can also gently introduce air into the digestive tract through the gastroscope. This widens something and changes become more visible.
Recognize and treat diseases
About the plastic tube, the doctor is possible to suck liquids such as blood or saliva. This ensures that he can always get an optimal picture of the investigated region. In addition, he can also introduce small instruments such as forceps or slings to take a tissue sample (biopsy).
During the gastroscopy, the doctor can not only detect possible diseases, but also initiate first treatment steps. This allows minor tissue changes to be removed or bleeding to be stopped. This can be done either by injecting an anti-bleeding agent or by attaching rubber bands or metal clips. The fact that some illnesses can be treated directly is a great advantage of the gastroscopy compared to other treatments.
Risks and side effects
Gastroscopy rarely causes problems. Only when introducing the gastroscope do patients often feel choking. In some cases, the plastic tubing can also cause injury and inadequate breathing. To prevent respiratory problems, patients' pulse and oxygen saturation are monitored during and after the exam.
Loose teeth can cause damage to the teeth by introducing the gastroscope. In very rare cases severe complications such as cardiac arrhythmia or pneumonia may occur.
With or without anesthesia?
A gastroscopy is a bit uncomfortable, but usually causes no pain. Therefore, a local anesthetic is sufficient for the examination: Before the gastroscope is inserted into the esophagus, the pharynx is slightly anesthetized with a spray. In addition, patients can - if they so wish - receive a short-term narcosis so that they do not notice the examination itself.
Such anesthesia is not a general anesthetic. Patients are only given sedatives such as diazepam. After anesthesia, however, you should be picked up at the hospital by an attendant. You must not drive or engage in dangerous activities until the next day. You must not make important decisions immediately after the anesthetic.
After the gastroscopy
After gastroscopy, there is often a discomfort in the throat caused by the gastroscope insertion. Typical symptoms are hoarseness and a scratchy feeling in the throat. As long as you notice a numb feeling in the esophagus (about two to three hours after the examination), you should not eat anything or drink anything. Otherwise, there is a risk that you will swallow yourself.