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How is an endoscopy done and what preparation is needed

Upper endoscopy is an examination in which a thin tube, called an endoscope, is inserted through the mouth until the stomach to allow observation of the walls of organs such as the esophagus, the stomach, and the beginning of the intestine. Therefore, it is a widely used test to identify the cause for some long-standing abdominal discomfort, with symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, burning, reflux or difficulty swallowing, for example.

Some of the diseases that can be identified through endoscopy include:

  • Gastritis;
  • Gastric or duodenal ulcer;
  • Hernia hiatus and reflux.

In addition, during endoscopy it is also possible to perform a biopsy, in which a small piece of the organ is removed and sent for laboratory analysis, aiding in the diagnosis of more serious problems such as H. pylori infection or cancer.

How is an endoscopy done and what preparation is needed

How to prepare for the exam

The preparation for the test includes a fasting of at least 8 hours and you should not use antacids such as Ranitidine and Omeprazole because they alter the stomach and interfere with the test.

You are allowed to drink water up to 4 hours before the exam, and if you need to take other medication, you should use only small sips of water to help, avoiding filling your stomach.

How is an endoscopy done

During the exam, you usually lie your side and an anesthetic is put in your throat to decrease the sensitivity in the area and facilitate the passage of the endoscope. Due to the use of the anesthetic the examination does not hurt, and in some cases sedatives can also be used to make you more relaxed and even make you sleep.

A small plastic object is placed in the mouth so that it stays open throughout the procedure, and to facilitate passage of the endoscope and improve visualization, the doctor releases air through the device, which after a few minutes can cause a sensation of a full stomach.

The images obtained during the examination can be recorded, and during the same procedure the doctor can remove polyps, collect biopsy material or apply medications on the area.

How long does and endoscopy last

The test usually lasts 5 to 30 minutes, but it is usually recommended you stay in the clinic for 30 to 60 minutes until the effects of  the anesthetics pass.

It is common for the throat to become numb or slightly sore, in addition to having the feeling of being stuffed, due to the air placed in the stomach during the examination.

If sedatives have been used, it is advised not to drive or operate heavy machinery for the remainder of the day, as the medication decreases body reflexes.

Possible risks of an endoscopy

Complications associated with endoscopy are rare and occur mainly after more time-consuming procedures, such as removal of polyps.

In general, the complications that occur are usually due to allergies to medications used and the presence of problems in the lungs or heart, in addition to perforation of some internal organ and bleeding.

If symptoms of fever, swallowing, abdominal pain, vomiting or dark stools appear after the procedure, seek medical help to check for complications due to endoscopy.

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