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Digestive Dictionary (from NIH)
Delayed stomach emptying (Gastroparesis)
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Terms and Conditions of Use



About upper endoscopyDigestive System

Upper endoscopy enables the physician to look inside the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). The procedure might be used to discover the reason for swallowing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, reflux, bleeding, indigestion, abdominal pain, or chest pain. Upper endoscopy is also called EGD, which stands for esophagogastroduodenoscopy (eh-SAH-fuh-goh-GAS-troh-doo-AH-duh-NAH-skuh-pee).  The test is one which is evolving rapidly due to technological advances in endoscopes, making these instruments thinner than ever before.  The thinnest endoscopes are now less than the diameter of a pen, allow for biopsy through the instrument, and are often used in a physician's office to do the procedure with only local anesthesia to the back of the throat.  For patients appropriate for this method, the entire procedure takes just the time of a quick office visit!

For the procedure you will swallow a thin, flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope (EN-doh-skope). Right before the procedure the physician may spray your throat with a numbing agent that may help prevent gagging. If in the hospital or an approved outpatient center, you may also receive pain medicine and a sedative to help you relax during the exam. A plastic mouthpiece called a bite block is placed between your teeth to prevent you from accidentally biting the endoscope.  The endoscope transmits an image of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, so the physician can carefully examine the lining of these organs. The scope also blows air into the stomach; this expands the folds of tissue and makes it easier for the physician to examine the stomach. The physician can see abnormalities, like ulcers, through the endoscope that don't show up well on x-rays. The physician can also insert instruments into the scope to remove samples of tissue (biopsy) for further tests.

Gastrointestinal endoscopy is quite safe. However, as in any invasive procedure, there is always a possibility that problems can  occur during and after the procedure. Physicians review the risks and anticipated benefits of the procedure with you beforehand,
individualized to each person.  As part of most hospital standards, you will be asked to sign an informed consent that basically outlines the general risks of gastrointestinal endoscopy. During the procedures there is a small risk of bleeding, more likely when a biopsy is taken or a growth removed. This is usually treated conservatively, but on extremely rare occasions a transfusion could be needed. Infection is a risk in any invasive procedure like endoscopy. In exceedingly rare circumstances a perforation (puncture) of the upper GI tract may occur along the course where the scope travels or where a polyp is removed. This condition will usually require surgery although there are some circumstances where this is not necessary. As noted above, most procedures are done with the aid of conscious sedation. This form of sedation is highly individualized to provide patient comfort while minimizing risk to the breathing and the cardiovascular systems, but some risk still persists. This is a partial list of the risks that the hospital forms include; and the most important thing to stress is to ask your physician or health care professional if you have any further questions as to what the procedure is all about!