What is upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy?

Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses an endoscope a flexible tube with a camera to see the lining of your upper GI tract. A gastroenterologist, surgeon, or other trained health care professional performs the procedure, most often while you receive light sedation to help you relax.

Why do doctors use upper GI endoscopy?

Doctors use upper GI endoscopy to help diagnose and treat symptoms and conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, and upper intestine or duodenum.

Upper GI endoscopy can help find the cause of unexplained symptoms, such as:

  • persistent heartburn
  • bleeding
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain
  • problems swallowing
  • unexplained weight loss

Upper GI endoscopy can be used to identify many different diseases:

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • ulcers
  • cancer
  • inflammation, or swelling
  • precancerous abnormalities such as Barrett’s esophagus
  • celiac disease
  • strictures or narrowing of the esophagus
  • blockages

During upper GI endoscopy, a doctor obtains biopsies by passing an instrument through the endoscope to obtain a small piece of tissue for testing. Biopsies are needed to diagnose conditions such as

  • cancer
  • celiac disease
  • gastritis

Doctors also use upper GI endoscopy to:

Treat conditions such as bleeding from ulcers, esophageal varices, or other conditions dilate or open up strictures with a small balloon passed through the endoscope remove objects, including food, that may be stuck in the upper GI tract remove polyps or other growths place feeding tubes or drainage tubes.

Doctors are also starting to use upper GI endoscopy to perform weight loss procedures for some people with obesity.

How do I prepare for an upper GI endoscopy?

You should talk with your doctor about your medical history, including medical conditions and symptoms you have, allergies, and all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take, including:

  • aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin
  • arthritis medicines
  • blood thinners
  • blood pressure medicines
  • diabetes medicines
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen

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