Your doctor might order an upper gastrointestinal (upper GI) endoscopy if you have GERD or if they suspect that you may. Endoscopy, which means examination of the inside, is a procedure that lets your doctor see inside your esophagus by placing a tube (endoscope) through your mouth and down your esophagus.
The procedure helps determine if there’s a structural problem, ulcers, or a hiatal hernia. It’s also used to take a sample of tissue from your esophagus for testing.
It’s important to make some preparations if you’re scheduled for an endoscopy to ensure the procedure goes smoothly.
Although you’ll be given a medication to help you relax, an endoscopy can be uncomfortable. Make sure to dress in comfortable clothes and avoid wearing jewelry. You’ll be asked to remove glasses or dentures before the procedure.
Arrange for a Ride Home
You’ll likely be given a narcotic and a sedative to help you relax during the procedure. These tranquilizers cause drowsiness and render you unable to drive safely. Arrange to have someone pick you up. Some offices forbid you to have the procedure unless you arrange for a ride home ahead of time.
Bring Any Necessary Forms
Make sure to fill out the consent form and any other papers that your doctor’s office has requested and bring them with you. Prepare forms the night before and put them in your bag to ease anxiety the day of the procedure.
Discuss Medical Conditions or Problems
Make sure to tell your doctor about any special conditions that you may have, such as pregnancy, heart problems, previous surgeries, or treatments such as radiation. This information alerts your doctor to take any necessary precautions to perform the procedure as safely as possible.
Know the Risks of the Procedure
Be sure you understand the risks and complications that might occur. Although rare, complications include:
- aspiration: taking food or liquids into the lungs. This can happen if you don’t properly fast before the procedure
- reaction to medication: if you have any allergies to certain medications like the sedative you’re given to relax during the procedure. These drugs also can interact with other medication you may take. Be sure to notify your doctor about other medications you’re on and alert the medical staff.
- bleeding: if polyps are removed or a biopsies are performed, bleeding could occur. However, bleeding is usually minor and easily can be remedied.
- tearing: could occur in the area being examined. However, this is highly unlikely.
Don’t Eat or Drink
You doctor will probably tell you that you should have nothing to drink or eat after midnight the night before the endoscopy, including gum or mints. You can have clear liquids after midnight up to six hours before the procedure if your procedure is in the afternoon. Clear liquids include water, coffee without cream or sugar, apple juice, white sodas, and broth. Avoid drinking anything red or orange.
Bring a List of Medications and Allergies
Before the procedure, list any medications you’re taking or allergies you have. Your doctor may tell you to modify or stop taking certain medications before the procedure because they’ll interfere.
These medications include:
- insulin: your doctor may tell you to change your insulin dosage
- anti-inflammatory medications: can thin the blood and prevent clotting. They could put you at risk for bleeding during the procedure
- warfarin and heparin: discuss this with your doctor before making any changes in your daily dosage
Plan for Time to Recover
You may experience mild discomfort in your throat after the procedure and the medication may take a while to wear off. It’s wise to take time off work and avoid making important life decisions until you’re completely recovered.