If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from gastrointestinal issues, he or she may suggest a procedure called an upper endoscopy. An upper endoscopy is used to visually examine your upper digestive system using a tiny camera at the tip of a probe called an endoscope. If you’ve just made an appointment for your first endoscopy, you may have questions regarding the procedure. We’ll discuss some of the more frequently asked questions about the upper endoscopy procedure.  

What is an upper endoscopy?

 The medical term for an upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy, which is quite a mouthful, so we’ll just stick with upper endoscopy. An upper endoscopy is used to diagnose illnesses that affect the upper part of your digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine. Some of the most common ailments of this nature are acid reflux or GERD. 

How does the procedure work?

During an upper endoscopy procedure, the endoscope is inserted in your mouth by your gastroenterologist. You may experience pressure—but not pain—in your throat. The small camera on the endoscope transfers images to a monitor, which your doctor will examine to look for anything abnormal in your upper digestive tract. Your doctor may pass special surgical tools through the endoscope to collect a tissue sample or remove a polyp.

How long will an upper endoscopy procedure take?

An upper endoscopy usually takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes and can be done as an outpatient procedure in your doctor’s office or in an outpatient surgery center.

What are the side effects?

An upper endoscopy is a safe procedure, however, as with any medical procedure, there is a risk of some minor side effects. These include: bleeding, infection, or tearing of your gastrointestinal  (GI) tract. By preparing for your endoscopy and following your doctor’s instructions before, during, and after the procedure, you can minimize your risk of side effects.

What does it mean if they say I have GERD?

If your doctor diagnoses you with gastroesophageal reflux disease—or GERD—it simply means that your lower esophageal sphincter isn’t tightening properly, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into your esophagus frequently and causing an irritation of the esophagus known as acid reflux. While lifestyle changes and over the counter medications may temporarily provide some relief for occasional heartburn and reflux, patients with GERD often require additional treatment like anti-reflux surgery to permanently correct their GERD. Your doctor will discuss the best treatment methods for your GERD.

Your upper endoscopy procedure doesn’t have to be scary. By educating yourself and asking your doctor any and all questions you have about the procedure, you’ll be in the best place to focus less about the procedure, and more about getting on with your life in the healthiest way possible!