If you have been struggling with digestive issues for a while, your physician will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist, a professional who focuses on disorders of the stomach and intestines. One of the first tests the gastroenterologist will want to conduct will typically be an upper endoscopy — an imaging procedure that allows them to see what's going on in your esophagus and stomach. Although this procedure is common, it can be a little intimidating, so it's nice to know what is going to happen before you arrive for your appointment.

Preparing for the Upper Endoscopy

You'll typically need to fast for at least 4 hours before your procedure; your doctor may ask you to fast for longer, depending on the nature of your symptoms. If you take blood thinners, you'll be instructed to stop taking them several days before the test.

Your upper endoscopy will typically take place in your gastroenterologist's office. It's not such an involved procedure that you will need to go to a hospital. When you arrive for your appointment, a nurse will generally take your vital signs and have you change into a hospital gown. You'll lie down on a hospital bed, and the nurse or doctor will give you an IV sedative. You won't fall asleep during the procedure, but you will be very relaxed.

Undergoing the Upper Endoscopy

Once you are sedated, your doctor will open your mouth and guide you in swallowing as they feed a long, thin tube down your throat. This tube contains a camera that will take video footage of your esophagus and stomach as it works its way down your digestive tract. You will feel this, but it won't feel painful, and because of the sedative, you should not be overly concerned. 

After your doctor has all of the images they need, they will remove the camera and the tube.

Recovering From and Reviewing Results of the Upper Endoscopy

Following the endoscopy, your doctor will give you some time for the sedative to wear off, and then they will review your results with you. Depending on the timing and the nature of your condition, they may instead schedule a second appointment later on to review your results.

As far as recovery goes, it is pretty straightforward. Your throat may be a little sore and you may have some bloating, but this should wear off within a day.

Undergoing an upper endoscopy can be a little uncomfortable, but it's not painful, and the results should give you and your gastroenterologist a lot of insight as to what's been causing your digestive symptoms.

For more information about gastroenterology, contact a local physician.