Upper endoscopy, which is known as EGD, is a procedure that uses a thin scope with a light and camera at the tip to look inside the upper digestive tract, made up of the esophagusstomach, and the beginning part of the small intestine.

EGD is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, but sometimes must be performed in the hospital or emergency room in order to identify and treat certain conditions, like upper digestive system bleeding.

The procedure is often used to aid in identifying the causes of:

Endoscopy can also help in identifying inflammation, tumors, and ulcers.

Upper endoscopy is even more accurate than X-rays for detection of abnormal growths like cancer and examination of the inside of the upper digestive system. Also, the endoscope can treat any abnormalities. For example:

  • Polyps (tissue growths in the stomach) can be discovered and removed, and tissue samples (known as biopsies) can be taken and analyzed.
  • Narrow areas of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum due to cancer or other diseases can be stretched using balloons or other devices. In some instances, a stent (a wire or plastic mesh tube) can be inserted in the narrow area to help expand it.
  • Objects caught in the esophagus or stomach can be identified and removed.
  • Bleeding due to cancer, varices, or ulcers can be treated.

How Do I Prepare for an Upper Endoscopy?

Prior to an upper endoscopy, let your doctor know if you are pregnant, have a lung or heart condition, or if you have allergies to any medication.

Also, let your doctor know if you have:

  • Ever been told you must take antibiotics before a medical procedure
  • Ever had endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart valves
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • An artificial heart valve

If you do have any of these conditions, you may be required to take antibiotics prior to the upper endoscopy.

You cannot eat or drink anything for eight hours prior to the procedure.

Before the procedure, medications for heart or thyroid conditions, or high blood pressure may be taken with a small sip of water. If you have use insulin for diabetes, the dosage of insulin must be adjusted on the day of the test. Your diabetes care provider will assist in making this adjustment. Bring your diabetes medication to your appointment so it can be taken after the procedure.

It is important that you have someone drive you home after the endoscopy. The sedation medications given during the procedure will cause drowsiness and impair your judgment. It will be unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery for eight hours after the procedure.

What Happens During an Upper Endoscopy?

Your doctor will explain the procedure in detail, possible complications and side effects. The doctor is also there to answer any questions you have.

  • You will wear a hospital gown and have to remove your eyeglasses and dentures.
  • A local anesthetic may be applied at the back of your throat.
  • A pain reliever and a sedative will be given intravenously (in the vein) to help you relax and feel drowsy.
  • A mouthpiece will be inserted in your mouth.
  • You will lie on your left side while the procedure takes place.
  • The endoscope will be inserted by your doctor into your mouth, through the esophagus and down into your stomach.

Procedures typically take 15 to 20 minutes.

What Happens After the Upper Endoscopy?

After an upper endoscopy:

  • You will stay in a recovery room for observation for about 30 minutes.
  • You may temporarily feel a soreness in your throat. Lozenges can help relieve this.
  • The test results will be sent to your primary or referring doctor by the doctor who performed the procedure.
  • The specialist or your primary health care provider will talk to you about the results. If the results show that medical attention is needed promptly, the necessary arrangements will be made, including notifying your referring health care provider.

Warning About Upper Endoscopy

Call your doctor’s office immediately or go to the emergency room if you have continuous cough or fever, severe abdominal pain, chills, nausea, chest pain, or vomiting within 72 hours after the procedure.

Is Endoscopy Safe?

Serious risks or complications with an endoscopy are rare. However, excessive bleeding is a possibility. Also, a tear in the esophagus or stomach wall is possible, but is rare.