Upper and lower GIs

What is an EGD?

An upper GI endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) is a procedure to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI tract (gastrointestinal tract).

The upper GI tract includes your food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum).

An EGD is done using a long, flexible tube called an endoscope. The tube has a tiny light and video camera on one end. The tube is put into your mouth and throat. Then it is slowly pushed through your esophagus and stomach, and into your duodenum. Video images from the tube are seen on a monitor.

Small tools may also be inserted into the endoscope. These tools can be used to:

  • Take tissue samples for a biopsy
  • Remove things such as food that may be stuck in the upper GI tract
  • Inject air or fluid
  • Stop bleeding
  • Do procedures such as endoscopic surgery, laser therapy, or open (dilate) a narrowed area

Why might I need an EGD?

An EGD can be used to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI tract.

It is often used to find the cause of unexplained symptoms such as:

  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Upper belly pain or chest pain that is not heart-related
  • Continuous vomiting for an unknown reason (intractable vomiting)
  • Bleeding in the upper GI tract

An upper GI endoscopy can be used to identify disorders or problems such as:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Narrowing (strictures) or blockages
  • Larger than normal veins in your esophagus (esophageal varices)
  • Redness and swelling (inflammation) and sores (ulcers)
  • Tumors, either cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign)
  • The stomach moving upward, either into or next to your esophagus (hiatal hernia)
  • Damage caused by swallowing very harmful (caustic) substances, such as household detergents and chemicals

An EGD can also treat problems in the upper GI tract. The procedure can be used to:

  • Control bleeding
  • Remove tumors or growths (polyps)
  • Open (dilate) narrowed areas
  • Remove things that may be stuck
  • Perform laser therapy
  • Insert a tube used for tube feeding (a percutaneous gastrostomy tube) into the stomach

An endoscope can be used to take tissue samples (biopsies) or GI fluid samples. An EGD may also be done to check your stomach and duodenum after a surgery.

Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend an EGD.

What are the risks of an EGD?

Some possible complications that may occur with an EGD are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • A tear in the lining (perforation) of the duodenum, esophagus, or stomach

You may have other risks that are unique to you. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How do I get ready for an EGD?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions you have about the procedure.
  • You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are sensitive to or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, and anesthesia medicines (local and general).
  • You will be asked not to eat or drink for 8 hours before the test. This usually means no food or drink after midnight. You may be given additional instructions about following a special diet for 1 or 2 days before the procedure.
  • Tell your provider if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
  • Tell your provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders. Let your provider know if you are taking any blood-thinning medicines, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. You may need to stop taking these medicines before the procedure.
  • Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare your bowel for the test. You may be asked to take a laxative, an enema, or a rectal laxative suppository. Or you may have to drink a special fluid that helps prepare your bowel.
  • If you have a heart valve disease, you may be given disease-fighting medicines (antibiotics) before the test.
  • You will be awake during the procedure, but you will take medicine to relax you (a sedative) before the test. Someone will have to drive you home afterward.
  • Follow any other instructions your provider gives you to get ready.

What happens during an EGD?

You may have an EGD as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.

Generally, an EGD follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. If you wear false teeth (dentures), you will be asked to remove them until the test is over.
  2. If you are asked to remove clothing, you will be given a gown to wear.
  3. An IV (intravenous) line will be started in your arm or hand. A medicine to relax you (a sedative) will be injected into the IV.
  4. Your heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen level will be checked during the procedure.
  5. You will lie on your left side on the X-ray table with your head bent forward.
  6. Numbing medicine will be sprayed into the back of your throat. This will stop you from gagging as the tube is passed down your throat into your stomach. The spray may have a bitter taste to it. Holding your breath while your provider sprays your throat may decrease the taste.
  7. You will not be able to swallow the saliva that may collect in your mouth during the procedure. This happens because the tube is in your throat. The saliva will be suctioned from your mouth from time to time.
  8. A mouth guard will be placed in your mouth. This will keep you from biting down on the tube. It will also protect your teeth.
  9. Once your throat is numbed and the sedative has relaxed you, your provider will put the tube in your mouth and throat. He or she will guide the tube down your esophagus, through your stomach, and into your duodenum.
  10. You may feel some pressure or swelling as the tube moves along. If needed, samples of fluid or tissue can be taken at any time during the test. Other procedures, such as removing a blockage, may be done while the tube is in place.
  11. After the exam and procedures are done, the tube will be taken out.

What happens after an EGD?

After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room to be watched. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you will be taken to your hospital room. Or you may be discharged to your home. If you are going home, someone must drive you.

You will not be allowed to eat or drink anything until your gag reflex returns. This is to prevent you from choking. You may have a sore throat and pain for a few days when you swallow. This is normal.

You may go back to your normal diet and activities, unless you have other instructions.

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from the IV site
  • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Throat or chest pain that gets worse

Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure and who will do it
  • When and how will you get the results
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure

Lower GI endoscopy allows your doctor to view your lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your entire colon and rectum can be examined (colonoscopy). Or just the rectum and sigmoid colon can be examined (sigmoidoscopy).

Before the exam

Follow these and any other instructions you are given before your endoscopy. If you don’t follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, the test may need to be cancelled or done over.

  • For a colonoscopy, you may be told not to eat and to drink only clear liquids for one to three days before the exam.

  • Take any laxatives that are prescribed for you. An enema may also be prescribed.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the exam if you will be sedated.

  • Tell your health care provider before the exam if you are taking any medications, vitamins, supplements, or have any medical problems.

The procedure

  • Colonoscopy can take 30 minutes or longer. Sigmoidoscopy often takes about 20 minutes.

  • You lie on the stretchr or bed on your left side.

  • For colonoscopy, you are given sedating (relaxing) medication through an IV line. Sigmoidoscopy usually doesn’t require sedation.

  • The endoscope is inserted into your rectum. You may feel pressure and cramping. If you feel pain, tell your doctor or nurse. You may receive more sedation which includes pain medication and an anti-anxiety medication. 

  • The endoscope carries images of your colon to a video screen. Prints of the images may be taken as a record of your exam.

  • When the procedure is done, you rest for a time. You may have some discomfort right after the procedure from trapped air. This can be relieved by changing position and passing the air. If you have been sedated, you must have an adult drive you home.

When to call your doctor

Call if you have any of the following after the procedure:

  • Pain in your abdomen

  • Fever

  • Rectal bleeding

español »