What Does Upper Endoscopy Diagnose?

05. 12. 2014

Upper endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used by doctors to visually examine the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. During this procedure, a small camera attached to a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the patient’s mouth and down the throat, providing the doctor with an up-close view of the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. Upper endoscopy is particularly useful in detecting cancerous growths or abnormalities which may not be visible on x-rays.

Typically performed as an outpatient procedure, upper endoscopy can be used to diagnose structural and functional abnormalities in the upper GI tract. These may include (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine):

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Weight loss or anorexia (loss of appetite)
  • Upper abdominal pain or chest pain of a non-cardiac origin
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Intractable vomiting (continuous vomiting from an unknown cause)
  • Strictures (narrowing) or obstructions
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding and esophageal varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus)
  • Inflammation and ulcers
  • Tumors (benign or malignant)
  • Hiatal hernia. Upward movement of the stomach, either into or alongside the esophagus
  • Damage caused by ingestion of caustic substances (chemicals such as lye, household detergents)

In addition to diagnosis, doctors can perform a variety of treatments during an upper endoscopic procedure. By inserting instruments through the endoscope, doctors can collect tissue samples for biopsy, remove foreign objects, remove tumors or polyps, stop bleeding, and instill air or fluid. Endoscopic surgery, laser therapy and dilation may also be performed during this procedure.

Upper endoscopy is generally safe, but it does carry the risk of infection, bleeding and perforation of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. Be sure to discuss your complete medical history and current medications with your doctor prior to the procedure. Tell your doctor if you are allergic or sensitive to certain medications, contrast dyes, iodine, shellfish or latex. If you are taking anticoagulants, you may be asked to stop taking them prior to the procedure, as they can affect blood clotting.

If you have any questions or concerns about upper endoscopy, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. This procedure may seem intimidating, but the better you understand it, the less anxious you will feel. Your doctor’s goal is to make you as comfortable as possible, so don’t be afraid to ask!

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