What Is a Stomach Endoscopy?

Natalie M. Smith

A stomach endoscopy is a painless medical procedure in which a special tube and camera are passed into a patient's stomach. Doctors use it to diagnose or treat certain health conditions. Patients typically undergo a more comprehensive internal examination during the procedure. As of late 2010, newer endoscopic technologies either do not yet lend well to examining the stomach, or they are not yet as effective as traditional procedures. Newer endoscopic technologies, like a tiny camera pill that replaces the tube, might one day make it possible to perform the procedure with virtually no complication risk.

An endoscopy may be done to diagnose stomach pain.
An endoscopy may be done to diagnose stomach pain.

Endoscopies consist of examining internal structures using a long, flexible tube, or endoscope, with an attached camera. Images from the camera appear on a separate monitor that is viewed by the doctor. A stomach endoscopy is not generally a stand-alone procedure. Doctors must first pass the tube through the esophagus to reach the stomach, and they often examine the duodenum, which is just beyond the stomach. The esophagus, stomach, and duodenum comprise the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, so examining these structures with an endoscope is referred to as an upper endoscopy or upper GI endoscopy.

An endoscopy may be able to help doctors repair a bleeding stomach ulcer.
An endoscopy may be able to help doctors repair a bleeding stomach ulcer.

Patients are instructed to fast for several hours before a stomach endoscopy. Individuals who take medications might also be required to make adjustments. Arranging safe transport is necessary as well, as the sedative patients receive prior to the procedure makes it unsafe for them to drive or perform some other activities afterward. Just prior to the endoscopy, the patient is given a throat-numbing solution, and machines are set up to monitor the patient's vital signs. The procedure is not painful and takes about 20 minutes.

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During a stomach endoscopy, a special tube and camera are passed into a patient's stomach to diagnose problems.
During a stomach endoscopy, a special tube and camera are passed into a patient's stomach to diagnose problems.

Doctors perform stomach endoscopies for many reasons, such as diagnosing the cause of stomach pain or checking the progress of stomach cancer treatment. A stomach tissue sample, or biopsy, might be collected for further examination. Some findings from the procedure might be available immediately, while others, like those from a biopsy, take days. Certain health conditions can also be treated during a stomach endoscopy. For instance, doctors can repair a bleeding stomach ulcer or remove an abnormal growth by using special tools that can slide in and out of the endoscope.

After a stomach endoscopy, patients can experience nausea, bloating, and sore throat symptoms for hours. There is also a slight chance of internal bleeding, infection, or other complications. Doctors recommend that patients who experience more serious symptoms, like vomiting or difficulty breathing, seek professional attention immediately, as these are indicators of a complication. Following all doctors' orders regarding fasting, medications, and other pre-operative instructions reduces the likelihood of complications.

A stomach endoscopy may be performed to diagnose the cause of stomach pain.
A stomach endoscopy may be performed to diagnose the cause of stomach pain.

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