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What Does It Mean When You Need an Upper Endoscopy?

Almost everyone has digestive issues at some point in their life: Maybe you feel a burning pain in your chest after grabbing a cold one, or discomfort in your stomach after eating too much.

These symptoms — and maybe a slight twinge of guilt for overindulging — normally go away in a few days. But sometimes, the pain is too much to bear. Each year, more than 40 million Americans head to their primary care provider or the emergency room to treat problems with their digestive system.

If your problem is in the upper digestive tract — your esophagus, stomach, or the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum), your digestive health provider may prescribe a test called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).

An EGD is also known as an upper endoscopy. It literally means a checkup (scopy) of your esophagus (esphago), stomach (gastro), and small intestine (duodeno). During this procedure, your provider will use a long, flexible tube with a camera attached to the tip to check the lining of your upper digestive tract.

What Is an EGD Used For?

Understanding Symptoms and Diagnosing Diseases
A gastroenterologist (a physician who diagnoses and treats stomach and intestinal issues) may perform an EGD for you if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent heartburn
  • Bleeding in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent upper abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss

Normally, when your provider performs an EGD, they are looking for the causes of these symptoms.

If you are bleeding inside your esophagus or stomach, an EGD is the best way to locate the source of bleeding.

An EGD can also be used to look for disease, inflammation (swelling), abnormal structures, or damage caused by harmful chemicals or objects.

Gathering Tissue Samples for Biopsies

Sometimes, just looking inside of your upper digestive tract is not enough to understand the cause of your symptoms. Your provider may need to perform a biopsy, where they take a sample of the tissue from your esophagus, stomach, or small intestine to examine for certain kinds of bacteria or cancerous cells.

Treating Upper Digestive Problems

This procedure is commonly used to make a diagnosis, but it can also be used to treat upper digestive problems. The tube can carry special tools to:

  • Take out foreign objects if you accidentally swallowed one
  • Remove a polyp — a cell mass formed on the inside of your stomach or esophagus
  • Stop bleeding from ulcers by putting medication directly on the ulcer
  • Open up a narrow esophagus by attaching a dilating device on the endoscope: The endoscope will guide the device to the narrowed area and release the device to widen it

Examining Other Health Issues

In some cases, EGD can be combined with ultrasound — called endoscopic ultrasound — to examine problems beyond digestive issues.

For example, the scope can reach close enough to the pancreas, an organ sitting next to the stomach, to take clear images that can be used to diagnose pancreatic diseases, such as pancreatic cysts or tumors.

How Can You Prepare for an EGD?

Because this procedure involves passing a tube down your esophagus and into your stomach, you should not eat or drink anything — including water — at least 6 hours before your EGD. Your provider will give you specific instructions on when to start fasting and whether you can take any prescription medications during this time.

If you have heart disease, diabetes, or are pregnant, you may need to take extra steps to prepare for your EGD. Be sure to mention these and any other health concerns to your provider so that they can customize your preparation instructions, if necessary.

For instance, if you are on medications for a heart condition or diabetes, you should mention to your gastroenterologist every medication and supplement you are taking, particularly:

  • Aspirin
  • Blood thinners (including clopidogrel)
  • Arthritis medications
  • Iron supplements
  • Insulin

These medicines can increase your risk of bleeding. You may need to stop taking or adjust the dose for some time ahead of your EGD. Follow your provider’s instructions and do not make any adjustments without consulting them first.

If you have a history of allergies with certain medications, medical tapes or adhesives, or anesthesia, it is important to let your provider know beforehand because these materials, sedatives, and anesthesia are used for this procedure.

And if you are pregnant, you should talk to your provider about the safety of undergoing the procedure.

What Happens During an EGD?

    5 Steps of an Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

  1. You will be injected with a sedative to help you relax and feel comfortable. Your provider will spray an anesthetic in your mouth, so you don’t cough or gag as the tube is going down your throat. You will wear a mouth guard to keep your mouth open.
  2. You will be positioned lying down on your left side and your provider will insert the tube (scope) into your mouth.
  3. Air will flow through the scope to help the tube move freely and to help your provider see the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
  4. Your provider will examine your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine inch by inch as the tube passes down. They will take a tissue sample for a biopsy if needed.
  5. The tube will be removed and you will be taken to a recovery room. To prevent choking, you will not be allowed to have any food or liquids until your gag reflex returns to normal. It may take about an hour for the sedatives to wear off.

During the procedure, your provider will monitor your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level through the equipment attached to your body.

The whole procedure may take 15 to 30 minutes.

After the Procedure

Some discomfort is normal afterward, including:

  • Sore throat for 1 or 2 days
  • Bloating for a short time
  • Nausea

Are There Any Risks?

An upper endoscopy is typically considered a very safe and painless procedure.

Although very rare, signs of possible complications include:

  • Fever
  • Bleeding from the biopsy site
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Throat pain
  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Vomiting, especially if your vomit is bloody or dark
  • Bloody, black feces

Contact your provider immediately if you have any of these symptoms in the days or weeks after your EGD.

Frequently Asked Questions About EGD

Can I drive myself home after the procedure?

Because you will be given sedatives for the procedure, you will need to arrange for a ride home afterward. You are not allowed to drive for 24 hours after the procedure because the effects of sedatives wear off slowly. This means you may feel groggy and have slower reaction times, which makes driving dangerous.

Will I be completely sedated/asleep?

Depending on the type of sedative you are given, you may be able to feel the tube moving and pressure when the air is injected, but you won’t feel pain and won’t remember much of the procedure afterward. Some people even fall asleep while it’s happening.

How soon can I get the results?

Your results should be available right away. Your gastroenterologist will explain the results with you and your family. If you have a biopsy, the tissue sample will be sent to a pathologist for analysis, and the pathologist will discuss the results with you.

A normal EGD should show:

  • Smooth esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, and of normal color — for example, your esophagus should be pale
  • No bleeding, growths, ulcers, or inflammation

Any damage, tears, growths, swelling, or inflammation may be considered abnormal.

Why Choose Stormont Vail

Located in Topeka, Kansas, Stormont Vail Health is a community-driven organization. It offers close to home care and with limited travel requirements, it will be easier for you to get the care you need in a community you trust.

In 2018, Stormont Vail achieved Magnet designation for a third time. Magnet designation is one of the highest awards in nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. Only 9% of US hospitals have earned this recognition. The Joint Commission — with more than 50 years of accrediting hospitals in high quality standards — has also accredited Stormont Vail Hospital.

The Cotton O’Neil Digestive Health Center has a dedicated Endoscopy Center for procedures like upper endoscopy. Our providers can collaborate closely with each other to make sure you have a smooth experience before, during, and after your procedure.

You will be able to meet with providers, get tested in our Endoscopy Center, and learn how to manage digestive health conditions all under one roof. We are committed to treating the entire person, not just the condition. You will receive support during the treatment and follow-up care afterward.

Next Steps

Make an Appointment

  • You don’t need a referral to schedule an upper endoscopy. Call (785) 270-4800 to schedule this procedure.

See a Primary Care Provider

  • Call (785) 270-4440 to schedule an appointment with your Stormont Vail primary care provider.
  • Not a Stormont Vail patient? Call (785) 270-4440 to set up your first appointment with one of our primary care providers.