Hutt Valley DHB Logo

(04) 566 6999

Information about gastroscopy


What is a gastroscopy?

A gastroscopy is a procedure to examine the upper part of your digestive system. An endoscope – a long, thin flexible tube with a video camera at the tip – is passed through the mouth into the oesophagus (throat), stomach and the first part of the small bowel (duodenum). Pictures from the camera are seen on a television screen by the endoscopist. The procedure usually takes about 15 minutes.

Why is gastroscopy done?

A gastroscopy is usually performed to evaluate symptoms of indigestion, upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It is also the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

A gastroscopy can provide detailed information on the appearances of the lining of the digestive system. The information gained during your procedure may reveal a cause for your symptoms and will assist your doctor in further treatment.

Gastroscopy is also used to treat conditions of the upper GI tract. Your doctor can pass small instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities with little or no discomfort. For example, your doctor might stretch a narrowed area, take biopsies (tissue samples) for laboratory testing or treat bleeding.

How do I prepare for gastroscopy?

An empty stomach is essential for a safe and accurate examination, so you should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for approximately six hours before the examination.

Please ring the Endoscopy Unit if you are taking blood thinners or are a diabetic or if you have any questions about your medications.

How is gastroscopy performed?

Before the procedure a sedative is usually given – you will not receive a full general anaesthetic so you will not be completely unconscious. You may be slightly aware of what is going on in the room, but generally you won’t remember anything. The back of your throat will be sprayed with local anaesthetic to make it numb, and a small mouth guard may be put between your teeth to stop you from biting the endoscope. If you have false teeth (dentures) they will be removed before the procedure. The doctor and medical staff monitor your vital signs during the procedure and will try to make you as comfortable as possible. The actual procedure usually takes between 5-15 minutes from start to finish.

Once sedated and lying in a comfortable position on your left side, the endoscope is passed through the mouth and then into the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. The tube is just less than one centimetre thick and does not enter your windpipe, so it won’t interfere with breathing. A small camera in the tip of the scope transmits a video image to a monitor, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the lining of your upper GI tract. Biopsies (small samples of tissue) can be taken and sent off to the laboratory for testing.

Are there any risks or side-effects?

Although complications can occur they are rare and will be discussed with you prior to the procedure taking place.

  • Having a gastroscopy carries a small risk of making a hole in the digestive system (perforation). This occurs on average no more than once in every 1000 examinations. Perforations may need to be repaired with an operation.
  • Using sedation can affect your breathing. To reduce this we monitor your pulse, oxygen level and breathing constantly throughout the procedure. The endoscopist may recommend that you don’t have sedation if you are at high risk of breathing difficulties during the procedure.

What happens after gastroscopy?

You will be monitored in the recovery area until most of the effects of the sedation medication has worn off. Your throat might be a little sore, and you might feel bloated because of the air introduced into your stomach during the test. You will be able to eat after you leave unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.

You should expect to be with us for approximately 3-4 hours in total.

If you choose to have no sedation you can go straight home after the procedure.

In most circumstances your doctor will briefly inform you of your test results on the day of the procedure. The results of any biopsies or tissue samples taken will take several days. You will be able to discuss the results of your biopsies with your GP or the doctor who referred you.

Full recovery is expected by the next day. Discharge instructions should be carefully read and followed.

Who can I contact if I have any questions?

You will be given an opportunity to ask questions prior to your procedure and again before you sign the consent form.

If you have any problem understanding or reading any of this information, please contact the Endoscopy Unit staff on 570 9191.