A gastroscopy is an endoscopy procedure that allows a doctor to look at the inside lining of the oesophagus (food pipe), the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) using a flexible telescope called a gastroscope. The instrument is about the thickness of your little finger and is fitted with a tiny camera that gives the doctor a clear view of the internal organs. The gastroscope also has a side channel that various instruments can pass down. This allows the doctor to take a biopsy (small tissue sample) if one is needed. The biopsy can be ‘grabbed’ by using the thin instrument that passes down the side channel.
Why is a Gastroscopy Performed?
Patients undergo a gastroscopy for a number of reasons, from looking at symptoms such as indigestion, or investigations to rule out certain cancers. Typical symptoms that are investigated with a gastroscopy include:
- Recurring heartburn
- Difficulty swallowing
- Upper abdominal pain
- Frequent vomiting
- Recurring indigestion
Symptoms that can be diagnosed or ruled out include:
- Stomach ulcer or duodenal ulcer
- Inflammation of the oesophagus, known as oesophagitis
- Inflammation of the stomach (gastritis)
- Stomach cancer
- Oesophageal cancer
- Various other rare conditions
Preparing for a Gastroscopy
Before the procedure begins, your doctor will discuss with you why it is being carried out, whether there are alternative procedures or tests, and what possible complications may result from it.
In order to carry out the procedure safely and thoroughly, the stomach needs to be empty. You will be asked not to eat or drinking anything at least 6 hours prior to your procedure. Before proceeding with a gastroscopy, you should inform your doctor of the following:
- You are taking any medication, such as blood thinners
- You have heart valve disease
- You have a pacemaker fitted
- You are allergic to any drugs or substances
- Any other health problems
During the Procedure
On the day of your gastroscopy, ensure you wear comfortable clothing with loose short sleeves. You will also need to remove any dentures or mouthguards.
A numbing solution may be applied to your throat, along with sedation and pain relieving medication through a vein. Once this medication has taken effect, you will feel relaxed and may even go to sleep. This is known as ‘conscious sedation’ and is usually administered by a nurse who monitors you throughout the procedure.
If it is deemed necessary, you may be sedated using ‘deep sedation’ that is administered by an anaesthetist who will monitor your vital signs such as your blood pressure and pulse, along with the amount of oxygen in your blood stream. The procedure does not interfere with your breathing.
Once you have been sedated; whilst lying on your side, the gastroscope is passed through the mouth and into the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. Most patients only feel a mild bit of discomfort, and many sleep throughout it using either conscious or deep sedation.
The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes.
Following the Procedure
Once the gastroscopy is complete, you will be moved to a recovery room where you will be observed and monitored by a member of the Endoscopy team. You cannot leave the hospital until the effects of the medication have worn off.
Once you have fully recovered (usually within 1-2 hours), you will be instructed as to when you will be able to return to your regular diet, although you may initially experience a mild sore throat or feeling of distention from the air that was used during the procedure. These problems disappear quickly and can be helped along by gargling a saline solution.
It is recommended that you have someone to accompany you home and stay with you for 24 hours, as you may feel groggy from the sedation. It is also important that you do not handle any machinery or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having the sedative. Most people are fine to resume their normal activities after this period.
Risks of a Gastroscopy
Most gastroscopies are performed without any problems, although sometimes there may be complications. Occasionally the gastroscope can cause damage to the gut that may cause bleeding, infection and perforation. If you notice any of the below symptoms within 48 hours of having your procedure, call 999 immediately. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain that feels different to usual pain caused by indigestion or heartburn and becomes worse over time
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting blood
In rare cases, a patient might have an allergic reaction to the sedative, causing trouble breathing and abnormal heart rhythms. Serious sedation reactions are usually more common in patients with severe heart or chest condition, although again these are rare.
At One Healthcare we can book you in to see a specialist Gastroenterology Consultant for an initial consultation, usually within 48 hours. Gastroscopy is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Gastroscopy treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience