Gastroscopy is a procedure which allows the doctor to see inside your oesophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), in order to examine the lining or take samples directly from it.

Patients should expect gastroscopy to be done in the endoscopy theatre, by a specialist doctor, often assisted by two nurses.  A gastroscope is a flexible, steerable, plastic-coated tube about the diameter of a ballpoint pen.  A camera (video chip) located on the tip sends a video image to a viewing screen.

Usually a numbing local anaesthetic will be sprayed onto the palate and tongue before the procedure.  In this way passage of the instrument will not cause discomfort.  It is common to recommend an injection of a sedative drug into the vein just before the procedure.  This is not a general anaesthetic, but may cause patients to feel relaxed and sleepy, and it is common not to recollect the procedure.

The upper bowel is gently inflated with air to allow a complete view of the lining.  At the end of test this air is mostly removed.  One or more biopsies (tiny samples of cellular tissue) can very safely be removed from inner lining of the intestine, if needed, to determine the cause of any abnormalities or test for presence of bacteria.  Very minor throat discomfort, burping, or minor discomfort from air are relatively common and should be very short-lived.

Serious complications from this procedure are extremely rare but can occur. They include:

  • bleeding after a biopsy, if performed
  • an adverse reaction to the sedative or throat spray
  • perforation (tearing) of the stomach with the instrument (this is a serious but extremely rare complication).

Before the procedure
Patients are asked not to eat or drink anything for 4-6 hours.  Usual medications can be taken with a small amount of water on the day of the procedure.

After the procedure
Patients stay in the recovery area until sedation has worn off which may take 1-2 hours.  You will be given something to eat or drink before you go home.  If you have received sedative drugs you should not drive until the following day.  The results of biopsies are usually available within 1 week.  A report and copies of these are sent to your GP.

For further information about gastroscopy see Endoscopy Auckland or Mercy Ascot Endoscopy.