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What Does Upper Endoscopy Diagnose?

Upper endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that provides an up-close look at the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is a valuable tool in diagnosing digestive disorders, because it allows the doctor to visually examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. During this simple outpatient procedure, a thin, flexible, lighted scope equipped with a camera is inserted into the mouth and down the esophagus, allowing your physician to carefully view the entire length of the upper GI tract. Upper endoscopy is able to detect disorders that may remain unseen on X-rays, such as cancerous growths or abnormalities.

Your doctor may recommend an upper endoscopy for a variety of reasons, including structural or functional abnormalities. Some issues that may require an upper endoscopy 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)

One added benefit of upper endoscopy is the ability to treat abnormalities on the spot during the procedure. While the endoscope is still in your digestive tract, your physician can remove polyps, collect tissue for biopsy, remove blockages, dilate strictures and even treat bleeding from ulcers or cancer.

Upper endoscopy is a safe outpatient procedure that can be performed in about 15 to 20 minutes, but complications can occur. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, contrast dyes, iodine, shellfish or latex. Don’t hesitate to discuss any thoughts, questions or concerns you have before the procedure. The more thoroughly you understand the process, the more comfortable you will be overall.