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Upper GI Endoscopy 

An Upper Gastrointestinal Intestinal (GI) Endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper duodenum, the first part of the small intestine.  This test is also called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or a gastroscopy.  An endoscope is a long thin tube with a light and a viewing instrument that sends images to monitor.  The endoscope allows a doctor to examine the inside of the upper gastrointestinal tract for bleeding, tumors, polyps, diseases, and other abnormal conditions.  A tissue sample or biopsy can be taken with the endoscope.  It is also used to treat bleeding.  An upper GI endoscopy is an outpatient procedure.  You will receive a medication to relax you prior to the test.

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When you eat, your tongue moves chewed food to the back of your throat.  When you swallow, the food moves into the opening of the esophagus.  Your esophagus is a tube that moves food from your throat to your stomach.  Muscles in your esophagus wall slowly squeeze the food toward your stomach. 
A ring of muscles located at the bottom of the esophagus is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  The LES opens to allow food to enter the stomach.  The LES closes tightly after the food enters.  This prevents stomach contents and acids from backing up into the esophagus.

Your stomach produces acids to break down food for digestion.  Your stomach processes the food you eat into a liquid form.  The processed liquid travels from your stomach to your small intestine.

The small intestine is a tube that is about 20-22 feet long and 1 ½ to 2 inches around. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine.  It is a short C-shaped structure that extends off of the stomach.  The jejunum and the ileum are the middle and final sections of the small intestine.

Your small intestine breaks down the liquid even further so that your body can absorb the nutrients from the food you ate.  The remaining waste products from the small intestine travel to the large intestine.

Your large intestine, also called the large bowel, is a tube that is about 5 feet long and 3 or 4 inches around.  The first part of the large intestine, the colon, absorbs water and nutrients from the waste products that come from the small intestine.  As water is absorbed, the product becomes more solid and forms a stool.  The stool moves through the large intestine and passes out of your body when you have a bowel movement

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An upper GI endoscopy may be ordered for several reasons.  It may be used to identify digestive or inflammatory diseases and infections.  It is helpful for determining the cause of bleeding, swallowing difficulties, and pain.  It is used to detect abnormalities including tumors, narrowing of the esophagus, and obstructions.  Additionally, an endoscope is used for taking photographs, obtaining tissue samples, surgically removing polyps, and to treat bleeding.  An upper GI endoscopy can sometimes eliminate the need for an exploratory surgery.


An upper GI endoscopy is an outpatient procedure that can be performed at a doctor’s office or a hospital.  Another person will need to drive you home because you will receive sedation medication for the procedure.  You should not eat or drink for several hours before the test.  You may need to stop taking aspirin or blood thinning medications a few days prior to your procedure.  Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions. 


You will wear an examination gown for your upper GI endoscopy.  You will receive pain-relieving medication and a sedative through an IV line.  The medication will relax you and make you feel drowsy.  Your throat area will be numbed with a spray, gargle, or medication to relax your gag reflex.

You will lie on your left side for the procedure.  You will wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth.  Dentures should be removed.  Your doctor will carefully place the endoscope in your throat and gently guide it through your upper gastrointestinal tract.  Air or water will be inserted to provide a better view and to help advance the endoscope.  You may need to change positions during the procedure to allow your doctor to best place the endoscope.  

The procedure may cause temporary discomfort.  It is common to experience gagging or belching.  The numbing medication will temporarily impede your ability to swallow.  You should not eat or drink for a few hours following your procedure.  Your doctor will instruct you on how to increase your food and liquid intake.  Your doctor will also discuss possible unexpected symptoms related to the test that may occur and a plan to address them.

Your doctor will review the results of your upper GI endoscopy with you at a follow-up appointment.  It may take time to receive biopsy results.  If any abnormal results were found by your test, your doctor will discuss treatment plan options with you.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit