What is a gastroscope?

A gastroscope is a special kind of endoscope. The gastroscope is a flexible plastic tube approximately four feet long and one half inch wide. The gastroscope contains optic fibers with a light source that allow the gastroscope to function like a video camera. The doctor uses the gastroscope to see the swallowing tube (esophagus), stomach, and part of the small intestines (duodenum). The gastroscope also has a hollow channel or tunnel throughout its entire length. The tunnel provides a way for the doctor to give medications or biopsy the swallowing tube, stomach, or small intestines to diagnose and treat certain conditions.

When is a gastroscope used?

The medical term for the use of the gastroscope is esophagogastrodoudenoscopy or EGD. An EGD is done when the doctor suspects that there is a problem with the swallowing tube, stomach, or small intestines. In the ICU, the two most common reasons for the using the gastroscope are to evaluate a patient suspected of bleeding from the stomach or intestines and to help place a gastrostomy tube. Occasionally, a special gastroscope is used for patients who may have an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis) or blocked gallbladder drainage system.

How is an EGD done?

The doctor using the gastroscope will explain the EGD procedure. Briefly, the patient will receive a spray medication to numb the back of the throat and IV medications to help relax. Once the patient is relaxed the doctor slowly inserts the gastroscope into the mouth and down into the stomach and intestines. Due to the type of medications used, many patients do not clearly remember the EGD.

Does an EGD hurt?

The procedure causes the patient to gag but this sensation is usually relieved by the medications given. After the procedure most patients will have temporary discomfort in the back of their throat and they may feel bloated.

Are there any potential complications associated with EGD?

Complications are very uncommon but include possible perforation of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestines, vomiting, and side effects from the sedation given for the EGD.