Digestive issues are common and can be challenging to get to the root cause of. This is because your digestive system is incredibly complex, meaning it can often take more than a physical examination to determine the cause of your symptoms.
Diagnosing digestive system-related health conditions effectively will often require taking a look at your insides with the help of a small camera, using a test known as a gastroscopy.
But what exactly does this look for? And what’s involved in the process? Learn all you need to know about gastroscopies in our latest blog post.
What is a gastroscopy?
A gastroscopy is a medical procedure often used to diagnose upper digestive conditions.
Gastroscopies use a long, thin flexible tube with a small camera inside one end. After being passed through your throat and into your stomach, they are then used to capture pictures of your throat, oesophagus and stomach.
Gastroscopies are one of the most valuable diagnostic tools when it comes to digestive health conditions as they provide clear images of your intricate digestive system. These images can then be used to make an accurate diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
A gastroscopy can also be used to take biopsies (tissue samples) and even treat certain conditions.
Is a gastroscopy the same as an endoscopy?
While similar, an endoscopy is a generalised term for using a camera inserted at either end of your body to investigate your symptoms. A gastroscopy is more specific and involves inserting the camera through your mouth only.
A gastroscopy also only looks at the upper digestive system whereas an endoscopy could refer to a diagnostic test for various other parts of the body.
Why is a gastroscopy carried out?
A gastroscopy may be carried out when you experience symptoms that affect your digestive system. Some of the main types of symptoms often include:
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain in your upper abdomen
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Difficulties swallowing (dysphagia)
- Vomiting blood
- Changes to your stools such as blood or persistent constipation or diarrhoea
Gastroscopies are not just used to diagnose symptoms – in some cases, they can treat them as well. For example, a gastroscopy can be used to:
- Widen your oesophagus
- Stop bleeding inside your oesophagus or stomach
- Remove growths such as polyps
- Support the fitting of a feeding tube
While a gastroscopy can address common digestive concerns, it can also play a big role in the early detection of health conditions. This can make treatment more effective and enhance your overall health.
For example, gastroscopies can check for certain types of cancer such as stomach and oesophageal by taking a small biopsy which can be tested for cancer cells.
Risks of a gastroscopy
The risks associated with having a gastroscopy are relatively low but may occur in rare cases. Some of the potential risks involved with gastroscopies include:
- Bleeding afterwards in your throat, stomach or oesophagus
- A reaction to the anaesthetic used
How is a gastroscopy performed?
Before you undergo a gastroscopy, there are some things you will need to do in advance.
Your surgeon may ask you to:
- Stop eating and drinking a set number of hours before your procedure (normally six hours)
- Lower or stop certain medications
You may be offered sedation if you feel particularly anxious about your gastroscopy. However, if you are sedated, you will need someone to take you to and from the hospital. Some people often decide to take the following day off work too.
If you aren’t sedated, you may be provided with a local anaesthetic spray which will numb the back of your mouth and throat. The entire procedure should only take between 15 to 45 minutes but you can be in the hospital for around four hours before being able to go home.
During a gastroscopy
During the procedure, the thin, flexible tube will go inside your mouth, down your throat and into your stomach. This can make you feel like you need to be sick, but once it reaches your stomach this sensation will stop. Sedation or numbing sprays can also be used to prevent this feeling.
Next, air will be used to inflate your stomach and provide a clearer picture of your digestive system. Once your stomach and oesophagus have been assessed, a biopsy may be taken if required.
After a gastroscopy
Once your gastroscopy is complete, you will be taken to the recovery room. As soon as you feel well and able enough, you should then be able to go home fairly soon afterwards.
If you have been sedated, you will need someone to take you home and monitor you for the following 24 hours. You will also need to avoid certain things, such as:
- Operating machinery
However, if you have the local anaesthetic throat spray, you will only need to wait an hour before being able to eat or drink again.
It’s normal to feel slight pain or discomfort in your stomach and throat afterwards, as well as be slightly bloated due to the air used to expand your stomach. However, this should pass within a few hours.
Seek medical advice if you experience any of the following after your gastroscopy:
- A high temperature or feel shivery
- Dark or black stools
- Shortness of breath
You should call 999 if you:
- Vomit blood
- Have severe stomach or chest pain
- Have worsening stomach or chest pain
What conditions can a gastroscopy detect?
A gastroscopy can detect numerous health conditions. For example:
- Coeliac disease – an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten
- Stomach ulcers
- Stomach cancer
- Oesophageal cancer
- Helicobacter pylori – a type of bacteria in your stomach lining that can cause indigestion and stomach infections
- Gastritis – inflammation of the stomach lining
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – a condition that causes heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, pain or difficulty swallowing and nausea.
- Oesophageal stricture – narrowing of the oesophagus
With so many conditions that a gastroscopy can detect, this makes it an excellent diagnostic tool for digestive health.
Book a gastroscopy with Mr Achal Khanna
If you are experiencing troublesome digestive symptoms, having a gastroscopy could help.
A gastroscopy can not only get to the root cause of your digestive health problems but treat certain conditions as well.
Book your gastroscopy with Mr Achal Khanna today. As a specialist in upper gastrointestinal health, Mr Khanna can provide you with an expert-led personalised care plan that takes your unique needs into account. With his support and medical care, you can enhance your digestive health and find relief from your symptoms.