An endoscopy is a test to look at the lining of the oesophagus, stomach and small bowel.

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a test to look at the lining of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small bowel). Endoscopies can also be used to give treatment.

A doctor or specialist nurse uses a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera at the end. This is called an endoscope. It helps them see any abnormal areas. They can look at the pictures from the camera on a screen. They may use the endoscope to pass some small tools into the oesophagus. This lets them remove small samples of tissue (biopsies).

Having an endoscopy

Having an endoscopy

You usually have an endoscopy as an outpatient, so you can go home the same day. Your doctor or nurse will ask you not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test. They will also give you instructions about any medicines you are taking.

An endoscopy takes about 10 minutes, but you may be in the department for a few hours.

During the test

When you have the endoscopy, you lie on your side on a couch. The doctor or nurse may spray a local anaesthetic on to the back of your throat. This makes it numb, so you do not feel anything during the test. Or they may give you a sedative to make you feel drowsy. They inject the sedative into a vein in your arm. You may have both the injection and the spray.

The doctor or nurse then passes the endoscope down the oesophagus and into the stomach to have a look. During the endoscopy, they can remove small samples of tissue from any areas that look abnormal. The tissue is looked at under a microscope to look for any changes to cells.

After the test, the doctor or nurse gently removes the endoscope.

An endoscopy can be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Tell the doctor or nurse straight away if you have any chest pain during or after the test.

After an endoscopy

If you had a sedative, the effects should only last a few hours. You will need someone to drive you home or travel with you. If you had an anaesthetic spray, you need to wait until the numbness wears off before you eat or drink.

You may have a sore throat after the endoscopy. This is normal and should get better after a few days.

Seeing a specialist

If the endoscopy shows that you might have cancer, you will see a specialist doctor or nurse. They will talk to you about your endoscopy results and arrange further tests.

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