Upper Endoscopy: When Would I Need It, What are the Risks?

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An upper endoscopy is a procedure that allows your healthcare provider to examine your upper digestive system visually. The process involves an endoscopy to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the upper part of the digestive system. You may have an upper endoscopy Anchorage in your doctor’s office as an outpatient procedure.

When would I need an upper endoscopy?

Your doctor may recommend this procedure to diagnose and sometimes treat problems affecting the upper digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Below are the common uses of upper endoscopy.

  • Investigate symptoms. If you have abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and gastrointestinal bleeding, your doctor may recommend an endoscopy to determine the cause.
  • Diagnose. Doctors use endoscopy to collect tissue samples to detect some cancers of the upper digestive system. The tissue samples can also test for diseases causing bleeding, diarrhea, inflammation, or anemia.
  • Treat. During the procedure, the doctor can pass special tools through the endoscope to treat problems in your digestive tract. For example, doctors use endoscopy to remove a foreign object, clip off a polyp, burn a vessel to stop bleeding, or widen a narrow esophagus.

Sometimes healthcare providers combine an endoscopy with other procedures, including an ultrasound. An ultrasound probe may be attached to the endoscope to capture images of your stomach or walls of your esophagus. Your doctor may combine these two procedures to create images of hard-to-reach organs like the pancreas.

How safe is upper endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy is a safe procedure that hardly causes complications. Although rare, the risks include the following:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia or sedation

Upper endoscopy usually requires anesthesia or sedation, so a patient is comfortable throughout the procedure. The type of anesthesia or sedation your doctor uses depends on the reason for the procedure. Some people may react to sedation or anesthesia, but the risk is low.

  • Bleeding

You are more likely to bleed after an endoscopy if the procedure was done to remove a tissue sample for testing. You may also bleed if the doctor used the procedure to treat a digestive system problem. In rare cases, one may bleed excessively and require a blood transfusion.

  • Infection

The risk of infection is usually low with most endoscopies. However, the risk increases when your doctor performs additional procedures as part of the endoscopy. Often, the infections are minor and only require antibiotics for treatment. If you are at higher risk of infection, your provider may give you preventive antibiotics.

  • Tearing of the gastrointestinal tract

The esophagus or any other part of your upper digestive tract may tear during the procedure and may require surgery to repair. This complication is unlikely, but the risk increases if additional procedures like dilation to widen the esophagus are performed.

After the procedure, you will sit or lie still in a recovery room for about an hour. Your healthcare team will monitor you as the anesthesia or sedation wears off. You may experience mildly uncomfortable symptoms like sore throat, bloating, and cramping. These symptoms are temporary and will improve with time. If you are in severe pain, talk to your doctor.

For further questions about upper endoscopy, consult your healthcare provider at Pioneer GI Clinic.

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