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Common procedures explained: Gastroscopy

What to expect and how to prepare

A gastroscopy, also known as an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy is a procedure used to examine your oesophagus, stomach and the duodenum (the first part of your small intestine).

A gastroscopy is a common and safe procedure, it is generally quick and simple, and most people can go home just hours afterwards.

Gastroscopy explained

Before a gastroscopy, a local anaesthetic spray may be applied to the back of your throat to numb it, and most people are given a sedative through a small tube that is inserted into a vein (intravenous cannula) to help them relax.

The procedure is usually performed by a gastroenterologist. During the procedure the gastroenterologist inserts a gastroscope, a small tube about the size of your pinky finger with a camera on the end, into your mouth.  They will then gently feed the gastroscope down your oesophagus to your stomach and duodenum.

The procedure usually only takes 10-15 minutes.

What is gastroscopy used for

A gastroscopy is generally a diagnostic procedure. Most of the time, they are performed to investigate symptoms associated with the upper digestive system, like indigestion, discomfort, nausea or trouble swallowing.

The gastroscopy can show if there is inflammation, an ulcer, polyp or other growth in your upper gastrointestinal system.

Doctors can also treat some conditions during a gastroscopy. Common examples include treating bleeding stomach ulcers, widening the oesophagus, taking biopsies and removing polyps.

The risks

Gastroscopies are generally very safe. But like all medical procedures, there is always a risk of complications.

Some of the more common complications include bleeding from a biopsy site, or where a polyp was removed. This is usually minor and rarely requires any further treatment.

Serious problems are rare, but there is a risk of bowel perforation and damaging teeth.

Preparing for a gastroscopy

Your stomach needs to be empty for the doctor to see properly during the procedure. You will usually be asked not to eat or drink anything for at least five hours before the procedure. Your doctor will give specific instructions beforehand, depending on the time of day your procedure is.

Some things to discuss with your doctor beforehand include:

  • Whether or not the procedure will be performed with a sedative, and your preferences
  • Any medications you are on, and if you need to adjust them or stop them before the procedure
  • Any drug allergies
  • Any major health conditions that may require special attention, for example heart and lung conditions.

Recovering from a gastroscopy

If you have a gastroscopy without a sedative, you are likely to be able to go home shortly afterwards.

If you have a sedative, you will be monitored until most of the effects of it have worn off. You will need to arrange for someone to accompany you home afterwards, as you should not drive, travel alone on public transport, operate machinery, sign legal documents, or drink alcohol for 24 hours afterwards.

Your throat may be a little sore, and you may feel bloated.

You will be able to eat again shortly after the procedure. The best thing to start with is a cool drink. And you should be able to return to work the following day.

At Medibank, we know that going to hospital can be a challenging time. If you are a Medibank member with hospital cover, you can call a Medibank nurse with any health question you or your family may have, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our nurses can help you in the lead up to your hospital stay to understand your surgery. They can also assist after you get home with any recovery and rehab queries. To speak to a Medibank Nurse call 1800 644 325. You can also get more information and advice about preparing for hospital and recovering well here.

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