In this Article

What is an Endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look inside your digestive track. Your doctor will insert a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera on one end (endoscope) into your mouth and use it to look inside your esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

Some of the risks or potential complications of this procedure include:

  • Bloating, gas, or cramping from air used to inflate the stomach and small intestine during the procedure
  • Coughing or breathing difficulty if the stomach isn’t completely empty
  • Some undetected problems if the stomach is not empty or your anatomy (your body) has been altered (as with gastric surgery)
  • Stomach or intestine wall injury (very rare), which can cause infection, bleeding, or possibly a need for repair surgery
  • Reaction to the sedation or numbing anesthetics [ann-ess-THEH-tiks]

What are the Benefits?

The benefits of an endoscopy include:

  • The doctor can see things that don’t show up well on x-rays
  • Some problems can be treated during the procedure
  • Tissue samples can be taken for testing, if needed

How Do I Prepare?

You will need to take a few basic actions to prepare for this procedure:

  • Give your doctor a list of all medicines you may be taking. Be sure to include over-the-counter medicines (such as cold or allergy medicine), vitamin supplements, inhalers, liquid medicines, and patches.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions concerning your medicines. Some medicines can increase your risk of bleeding. You may have to make sure you stop taking them for a few days before the procedure.
  • Follow all instructions on when you need to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This will help avoid complications and make sure that the doctor can see any problems clearly.

How is it Done or Administered?

In most cases, you will be given a sedative to help you relax. The sedative is given through an intravenous line (IV) inserted into a vein in your arm.

Your doctor or nurse may also spray your throat with a local anesthetic to keep you from coughing or gagging when the endoscope is inserted. A mouth guard will be used to protect your teeth and the endoscope.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be asked to lie on your left side while the doctor inserts the endoscope through your mouth and into your esophagus, stomach, and first part of your intestine. The endoscope is thinner than most food you swallow, so you should be able to breathe normally.

The camera at the tip of the endoscope sends images of these organs to a monitor. The scope puts air into these organs to inflate them, creating a better view.

The doctor can also insert instruments through the scope to treat bleeding abnormalities, remove tissue samples (biopsies) for further tests, or help widen openings. You won’t be able to feel the biopsies.

What happens after?

You will stay at the facility until you are recovered from the sedative. This usually takes about an hour. It will be several hours (up to a full day) for the sedative to completely wear off. During this period of time, do not drive a vehicle, consume alcohol, sign legal documents, or participate in other activities that require alertness, balance, and coordination.

If throat spray is used, it can take up to 45 minutes to wear off. You will not be able to drink anything until it does. You may have a sore throat for a day or two.

Depending on what your doctor can see and the results, you may need follow-up procedures. Talk with your doctor to make sure you understand what to do next.

When Will I Know the Results?

Results may vary depending on what your doctor sees during the procedure. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect in terms of results, and when.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Follow-ups may vary depending on what your doctor sees during the procedure. Talk to your doctor about when you may need another appointment, or any other follow-up needs.