What is upper endoscopy?
Upper endoscopy lets us examine the lining of the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine). Your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which has its own lens and light source, and will view the images on a video monitor.
Why is upper endoscopy done?
Upper endoscopy helps us evaluate symptoms of upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It's the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. It is also more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. We might use upper endoscopy to obtain a biopsy (small tissue samples). A biopsy helps us distinguish between benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) tissues.
Remember, we take biopsies for many reasons even if we do not suspect cancer. For example, we might biopsy to test for H pylori (H. pylori breath test), the bacterium that causes ulcers. We might also use upper endoscopy to perform a cytology test, where we will introduce a small brush to collect cells for analysis. We also use upper endoscopy to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. We can pass instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities, with little or no discomfort to you. For example, we might stretch (dilate) a narrowed area, remove polyps (usually benign growths) or treat bleeding.
What are the possible complications of upper endoscopy?
Although complications can occur, they are rare. Bleeding can occur at a biopsy site or where a polyp was removed, but it's usually minimal and rarely requires follow-up. Perforation (a hole or tear in the gastrointestinal tract lining) may require surgery, but this is a very rare complication. Some patients might have a reaction to the sedatives or complications from heart or lung disease. Although complications after upper endoscopy are very rare, it's important to recognize early signs. Contact us immediately if you have a fever after the test or if you notice trouble swallowing or increasing throat, chest or abdominal pain, or bleeding, including black stools. Note that bleeding can occur several days after the procedure.
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