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Gastroscopy refers to the passing of a flexible tube, about 1 metre long and 10 mm. wide, through the mouth in to the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and duodenum (the upper part of the small bowel). This tube contains a video camera, so we can see through this a magnified image of the inside of these parts of the body. This enables a diagnosis of such things as ulcers, cancers, or scarring, which can cause a variety of symptoms.
The Bowel Preparation
Prior to the test, you must have fasted completely (no food or drink) for at least 5 hours, this makes the stomach empty, and enables complete visualisation of the interior. It is important to take your regular medication, with a sip of water, during the fasting period. At the time of the procedure, you will be lying on your left side on a trolley, supported by a pillow, and the throat sprayed with a solution to make it numb. A specialist anaesthetist will administer some very short-acting sedative drugs in to a vein, and then the examination will begin. The entire test usually takes less than ten minutes, and most people have little memory of the event.
After the procedure, as the throat is numb, we advise against eating or drinking for about an hour. Usually, with the effect of the sedatives, most people are sleepy for at least that long anyway. After that time, you may go home, but you must be escorted. You must not drive a car until the following day, and the rest of the day must be taken off work. A full report will be sent to your doctor in the mail. Anything requiring urgent therapy or action will be communicated to your doctor on the day of the test. The hospital anaesthetic departments policy states you must be escorted home (you cannot travel unaccompanied in a taxi), and you must have someone stay with you overnight.
There are potential hazards to this procedure, as in any test involving the use of sedatives and the examination of the interior of the body. Like similar procedures, this may include the potential for death. The overall risk is in reality very small, including such things as vomiting, pain and bleeding, the last of which could require surgery (about 1:2000). A mouth guard is used to minimise the possible risk of dental damage.