What is a gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy is a procedure whereby a gastroscope (a flexible tube with camera at the distal end) is passed through the mouth into the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It allows your Gastroenterologist to carefully examine these areas as well as perform biopsies or remove polyps. This procedure may be performed to investigate symptoms such as reflux, bleeding, anaemia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss or difficulty swallowing.
How do I prepare for a gastroscopy?
An empty stomach is essential for a safe and effective procedure, so you must have nothing to eat for at least six hours beforehand. You may drink ‘clear liquids’ only (i.e. water, clear fruit juice, cordial, black tea/coffee WITHOUT milk, sports drinks, soft drinks) up until two hours prior to your procedure. After that you must remain strictly nil by mouth (apart from a sip of water with any important regular medicines – but do not take any diabetic medications). Patients taking diabetic or blood thinning medications should inform their Gastroenterologist as they may require specific instructions.
How is a gastroscopy performed?
Deep sedation is administered by an anaesthetist prior to your procedure so that you are comfortable. Once sedated and lying comfortably on your left side, a gastroscope is passed through your mouth and into the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. A camera at the end of the scope transmits a video image to a monitor, allowing the Gastroenterologist to carefully examine the upper gastrointestinal tract and perform interventions if necessary. The procedure takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.
What happens after a gastroscopy?
Following the procedure, you will remain in the recovery area for an hour or so until the sedation medication wears off. Your Gastroenterologist will briefly inform you of the findings of your procedure and if necessary, a follow-up appointment may be made to discuss the results in more detail. Because of the sedation medication given during the procedure, it is very important that you do not drive a car, travel on public transport or catch a taxi/uber alone, operate machinery, sign legal documents or drink alcohol within the first 24 hours after the procedure. After 24 hours you can return to work and resume normal activities. It is mandatory that a responsible adult accompanies you home after the procedure and stays with you overnight.
What are the risks or side-effects?
Although complications can occur with any procedure, they are very uncommon after diagnostic gastroscopy. Common side-effects may include a mild sore throat or abdominal discomfort which should resolve within an hour or so. The risks of significant bleeding, perforation, or aspiration (chest infection) after diagnostic gastroscopy are approximately 0.1% or less. Surgery may be required to repair a perforation. Other potential risks including but not limited to chipped teeth, cardiopulmonary events, and infection are rare. The rate of complications may be higher for patients undergoing therapeutic procedures. Whilst gastroscopy is an accurate way to examine the upper gastrointestinal tract, it is possible that small but significant lesions may be missed. Like all medical procedures, there is a remote chance that a significant complication can result in death, however this is exceedingly rare (4 in 100,000 cases) following diagnostic gastroscopy.