Gastroscopy is a medical procedure where a camera is inserted into the patient's mouth and fed down the throat to inspect the esophagus and stomach. This condition may also be known as an endoscopy, a term used generally to refer to any procedure involving the use of a camera to visualize the inside of the body. It is performed in a hospital or clinic and is usually used for diagnostic testing and evaluation of patients. The procedure takes several hours from start to finish and patients should plan on setting aside at least half a day for a gastroscopy if one is recommended.
In a gastroscopy, the patient is given a local anesthetic in the throat and may be sedated for comfort. The endoscope is inserted and gas may be pushed into the stomach to make it easier to see. As the camera is advanced, the physician will take note of any abnormalities encountered, and the results of the medical imaging study can be recorded for future reference as well. Once the doctor has gotten a good look, the camera will be removed and the patient will be allowed to recover.
While the actual gastroscopy usually only lasts around 15 minutes to half an hour, depending on the situation, the preparation time adds to the length of the procedure and the patient may be asked to wait in recovery afterwards. Sedated patients need to be monitored as they recover to confirm that they are not reacting adversely to the sedatives and patients may also be checked for signs of discomfort indicative of a puncture or scrape inside the esophagus.
A common reason to perform this procedure is to explore a history of heart burn, throat or stomach pain, or difficulty swallowing. Using a camera to look inside the body provides a doctor with an opportunity to look for tell-tale signs of cellular changes in the esophagus, strictures where the esophagus narrows, and so forth. Changes to the stomach can also be identified during this medical imaging study, and during a gastroscopy, samples of suspicious material may be taken for biopsy.
This procedure is not very comfortable. Even with sedation and anesthetic, patients may feel like they are gagging during the exam and when the endoscope is withdrawn, patients may cough, gag, or drool. The throat can also feel somewhat tender afterwards and patients may be advised to eat soft, bland foods for a day or so during recovery.