Table of contents:
1- What is gastroscopy?
2- What does it consist of?
3-Why is it performed?
4-Preparing for gastroscopy
5-What does gastroscopy feel like?
6-Risks of Gastroscopy
7- Meaning of abnormal results
8-What are the alternatives to gastroscopy?
What is gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy is a clinical diagnostic test. It consists of an exploration that allows direct visualization of the upper part of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach and duodenum) thanks to a small flexible tube, known as an endoscope.
In addition to being a diagnostic method, it is also a therapeutic method, since the endoscope allows passing the necessary devices to act on various lesions, such as the dilation of stenotic areas, polyps and bleeding, among others. It is a comfortable and safer method, since it avoids open surgery in many cases.
What does it consist of?
Gastroscopy is performed with an endoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera on the end and, in some cases, a light. It is about one centimeter in diameter and a little more than 100 centimeters long. The purpose of this camera is to obtain images of the inside of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, as well as the intestine, which will be viewed through a monitor.
To do this, the tube is inserted through the mouth and guided through the digestive tract to analyze its condition or the presence of diseases in detail. The endoscope tube also has several channels inside it through which various instruments can be inserted to perform diagnostic tests, take biopsies, remove polyps and even cauterize bleeding vessels.
Why is it performed?
This test is performed to look for abnormalities in the stomach and duodenum, when the patient notices abdominal discomfort, nausea, difficulty swallowing, heartburn or burning. Tissue samples can be obtained for biopsies, polyps can be removed or the presence of certain bacteria, such as H pylori bacteria, the cause of many peptic ulcers, can be determined.
In addition, thanks to gastroscopy, tumors can be detected at an early stage by extracting small samples of the mucosa and analyzing them externally. During the gastroscopy procedure, bleeding ulcers can also be cauterized by burning the blood vessels.
Specifically, gastroscopy is performed in the following cases:
- Study of esophageal problems: esophagitis, tumors or narrowing of the esophagus.
- Study of stomach problems: tumors, gastritis or gastric ulcer.
- Diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux or hiatal hernia.
- Study of the cause of vomiting blood.
- Iron deficiency anemia: when its cause is considered to be a loss of blood through the upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Black stools, when they are due to an admixture with digested blood, due to a hemorrhage in the small intestine.
- Symptoms of upper abdominal pain, pain on swallowing, vomiting or weight loss without apparent cause.
- Liver cirrhosis, as the disease causes thickening of the veins in the stomach and esophagus, with risk of rupture and bleeding.
- Diagnosis of celiac disease, Helicobacter pylori infections (closely related to gastroduodenal ulcer) and even digestive tumors.
- Diagnosis of pancreatic and biliary diseases.
Gastroscopy can be used as
diagnosis or as a treatment
Preparation for gastroscopy
The stomach must be empty; solid food intake should be avoided from the night before and only water may be drunk. It is also important not to smoke before the test.
The GI specialist may consider it important to perform additional tests before the gastroscopy.
How do you feel during the test?
Although gastroscopy does not usually cause pain, it can be a little uncomfortable and cause a feeling of nausea, which occurs when the tube is inserted down the throat. Therefore, prior to the procedure, the specialist will apply sedation to the patient, which can be local or general, in order to ensure greater comfort.
Risks of gastroscopy
Gastroscopy has side effects that may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Perforation of some organs
- Possible allergic reactions
Meaning of abnormal results
Abnormal gastroscopy results will inform the specialist of the above-mentioned pathologies. Depending on the location of the lesion and the patient’s symptoms, as well as the results of the examination, it will be possible to determine if it is a problem of the esophagus, stomach, gastritis, ulcers, tumors, hiatal hernia, gastroesophageal reflux, among many other pathologies of the digestive system.
There are no more advanced techniques than gastroscopy, since it is a minimally invasive technique that allows the diagnosis and even the treatment of some pathologies without the need for open surgery.
However, there are complementary study techniques that the specialist will order when certain symptoms are present or when he/she considers other diagnoses necessary. Some of them are colonoscopy, certain more complete blood tests, breath test, stool analysis or even capsule endoscopy.