Gastroscopy: reflection of the stomach

An endoscope enables a view of the stomach and duodenum. It has lights, cameras and channels for instruments

Our content is pharmaceutically and medically tested

View into the stomach: possible with the gastroscope

© W & B / Szczesny

Gastroscopy - briefly explained

  • With the help of gastroscopy, symptoms of the esophagus (esophagus), stomach (Gaster) and duodenum can be clarified.
  • It is done with the help of a gastroscope, an optical device in the form of a flexible plastic tube. It reaches the duodenum via the throat, esophagus and stomach.
  • Different channels make working possible. This is how mini cameras, lights and tools such as forceps and snares get into the stomach. Images from inside are transmitted to a monitor.
  • Tissue samples can be taken during the examination.
  • Sprayed-on dyes or changes in light make changes in the mucous membrane visible and easier to assess.

A gastroscopy can confirm an infection with bacteria (Helicobacter pylori).

© iStock / Axel Kock

What can a gastroscopy reveal?

A gastroscopy can help identify the cause of upper digestive tract discomfort. A gastroscopy is an option for the following complaints:

  • recurrent heartburn
  • persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • chronic cough
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • increased flatulence
  • unclear weight loss
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood in the stool
  • Anemia

A gastroscopy can provide certainty if:

  • Inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis)
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Stomach and duodenal ulcers (ulcer disease)
  • Bulges (diverticula)
  • Injury or inflammation of the mucous membranes
  • Varicose veins in the esophagus (esophageal varices)

Benign and malignant changes in the mucous membrane can also be examined more closely in this way. As part of the gastroscopy, samples are taken from the suspect site. Gluten intolerance (celiac disease, sprue) can also be proven in this way. A gastroscopy can also reveal internal bleeding in the upper digestive tract and identify the source of the bleeding.

A gastroscopy can not only identify diseases: some of them can also be treated immediately. Benign and malignant tissue changes on the surface can be removed directly and bleeding in the upper digestive tract can be stopped by various measures. Bleeding is stopped, for example, by injecting anti-bleeding agents or by placing metal clips or rubber bands. In the case of heavy bleeding, this can be life-saving. In addition, with the aid of gastroscopy, feeding tubes can be placed directly or through the abdominal wall and prostheses can be inserted to bridge constrictions in the esophagus. Certain bottlenecks can also be widened with a balloon, flexible stretch rods ("bougies") or laser therapy.

The endoscope takes you through the mouth and throat to the stomach and duodenum.

© W & B / Martina Ibelherr

How does a gastroscopy work?

A gastroscopy with sampling can be performed on an outpatient basis; a stay in hospital is only very rarely necessary. Departments or practices (gastroenterology) specializing in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract carry out the examination. The gastroscope, which is less than a centimeter in diameter and around a meter long, is advanced through the throat towards the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. With a spray that numbs the throat, some people find it easier to swallow the endoscope. On request, there is also a short-term anesthetic ("sleep injection") so that you do not consciously experience the procedure.

Air introduced during the examination stretches the digestive tract so that changes are more visible. With the help of a Zage, samples can be taken from abnormal areas in the mucous membranes of the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. The removal does not cause any pain. When the examination is finished, the gastroscope is carefully pulled out again.

What do you have to consider during the preparation and after the gastroscopy?

So that the upper digestive tract can be easily assessed, the area viewed must be free of food. You should therefore not consume any food or drinks for at least six hours before the examination. If you really want to drink something, you should only use clear water.

Anyone taking anticoagulant medication should inquire about two weeks before the gastroscopy whether and when to stop taking them in order to reduce the risk of internal bleeding.

After the examination, an uncomfortable, numb feeling in the throat area and hoarseness may develop. This usually does not require any treatment and will go away on its own. However, you should not eat or drink anything until the numbness has subsided, otherwise you could choke, for example.

Anyone who has received short-acting anesthesia must be picked up by an accompanying person after the examination. Active participation in road traffic and dangerous activities are not permitted. Important decisions should also not be made shortly after anesthesia.

What are the advantages of a gastroscopy?

A gastroscopy offers the opportunity to take a look at the mucous membrane in the upper digestive tract and often enables a reliable diagnosis. In the case of unclear symptoms in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, gastroscopy is superior to other diagnostic methods such as X-ray examinations, magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography. Another advantage of gastroscopy is that it can be used not only diagnostically but also therapeutically, for example to treat bleeding or to remove tissue.

What are the risks and side effects?

Serious complications are very rare with a gastroscopy. These include, among other things

  • Arrhythmia
  • Pneumonia caused by ingestion (aspiration)
  • Injuries
  • temporarily inadequate breathing

All patients are therefore monitored during the examination and in the waking up phase by measuring their pulse and oxygen saturation in the blood (pulse oximetry). Damage to the dentition can occur, especially with loose teeth. More common is a gagging sensation in the throat, which occurs when the gastroscope is inserted. After the examination, there may also be an uncomfortable, numb feeling in the throat area and hoarseness. This usually does not require treatment and disappears on its own. However, even after the examination, you should not eat or drink until the numbness has subsided, as you could choke. In some cases, there is also a short-term feeling of vomiting.

© W & B / private

Consulting expert: Dr. Wolfgang Wegerle, internist and gastroenterologist

Important NOTE:
This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Unfortunately, our experts cannot answer individual questions.

Also read: