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Gastroscopy

You may need to have a gastroscopy examination to find out the nature of any gastrointestinal problem you may have. Before you agree to this it would be advisable for you to know all you can about it. The information here is a guide to common medical practice. Each hospital and doctor will have slightly different ways of doing things, so you should follow their guidance where it is different from the information given here. Because all patients, conditions and treatments vary it cannot cover everything. Use this information when making your choice of treatment for any gastrointestinal problem with your doctors. You should mention any worries you have. Remember that you can ask for more information at any time.

 

What is the problem?

It looks as if your problems are coming from your gastrointestinal system. This test examines the stomach, in particular. It can also be used to examine the oesophagus and the duodenum.

 

We need to do this test to find out what is going wrong. Sometimes we just need to check that the gastrointestinal system is working properly. There are many problems that can be diagnosed using this test. Among these are:

 

  • Ulcers.
  • Heartburn.
  • Any narrowing, called a stricture.
  • Growths.
  • Stomach emptying problems.
  • Vomiting.

 

 

What are the oesophagus and stomach?

The oesophagus and stomach are part of the gastrointestinal tract, which extends from the mouth to the anus. In between are the oesophagus, stomach and the small and large intestines. The function of the gastrointestinal tract is to digest the food that you eat and to get rid of the waste. The stomach and small intestine absorb food into the blood stream to fuel the body. The large intestine is involved with the disposal of waste products from the body.

Gastroscopy

The oesophagus is the tube that carries the food down to the stomach. It is also called the gullet. The stomach is a muscular pouch lying between the oesophagus and the first part of the bowel, called the duodenum.

 

The lining of the upper part of the stomach produces acid and a digestive chemical, called pepsin. Together with the action of the stomach muscle, these chemicals break down food and drink to produce a fine paste. The cells lining the lower part of the stomach control how much acid and pepsin is made in the upper part of the stomach.

 

A ring of muscle at the outlet of the stomach, called the pylorus or pyloric sphincter, relaxes from time to time, to let the food paste through into the duodenum.

 

What is a gastroscopy?

Strictly speaking, a gastroscopy is a visual examination of your stomach, as gastro means stomach. However, on the way, we examine the back of your mouth and your oesophagus. We can also examine beyond your stomach into the upper part of the small bowel, called the duodenum.

 

The examination is done through the mouth using a flexible telescope, called an endoscope, which is about as thick as a pencil. The endoscope lets the doctor see the inside of the gastrointestinal tract and any problems.

 

The examination is also called an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, as it examines the upper gastrointestinal tract. You may also hear it called an upper GI endoscopy.

Gastroscopy 2

The aims

The examination will give valuable information about your upper gastrointestinal tract. We can check that the stomach is staying healthy in patients who need to have repeated examinations. We can take small samples of the lining, called biopsies, for examination under the microscope. We are also able to treat some conditions through the scope:

 

  • We can snare and remove polyps.
  • We can inject ulcers in the lining of the oesophagus, stomach or duodenum to stop bleeding.

 

The benefits

The test gives a direct view of the inside of your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum, rather than the shadows seen on a barium meal or x-ray.

 

Are there any alternatives?

You are probably undergoing a series of tests to find out the cause of your symptoms. X-rays and scans might be performed at other stages in your investigation.

 

Doing nothing may mean we miss something important.

 

If there is bleeding from an ulcer, injections to control the bleeding through the gastroscope are a better first treatment than an operation.

 

 

Author: Mr Michael Edwards FRCSEng FRCSEd. Consultant general surgeon.

© Dumas Ltd 2006

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