Endoscopy means examination of the inside. It’s a procedure that allows your doctor to view and operate on the internal organs and blood vessels of your body, especially those in the digestive system. This makes it possible to evaluate diseases within your body without making large incisions.

There are several types of endoscopies, which vary based on the area of the body that’s being examined. In an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, your doctor places an endoscope through your mouth and down your esophagus. An endoscope is a flexible tube with an attached camera. It allows your doctor to examine your esophagus and upper intestinal tract. Your doctor can use forceps, or tongs, and scissors on the endoscope to operate or remove tissue for biopsy.

Your doctor might order an upper GI endoscopy to rule out peptic ulcers or structural problems, such as a blockage in the esophagus. They may also perform the procedure if you have GERD or if they suspect that you may have it. GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is also known as acid reflux or acid indigestion. It’s a very common condition that occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t close properly. The LES is the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach that opens for limited amounts of time when you swallow. When the LES doesn’t close completely, stomach contents can come back up into the esophagus.

An upper GI endoscopy can also help determine if you have a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm and into your chest. The opening it moves through is called a hiatus. A hiatal hernia can contribute to GERD and acid reflux.

It’s important to prepare for an upper GI endoscopy to ensure the procedure goes smoothly. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your endoscopy, but here are some general tips that can help make sure you’re ready.

Discuss Medical Conditions or Problems

Make sure to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or have any conditions, such as heart disease or cancer. This information helps your doctor know whether to take any necessary precautions to perform the procedure as safely as possible.

Mention Medications and Allergies

You should also tell your doctor about any allergies you have and about any prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Your doctor may tell you to change your dosage or to stop taking certain medications before the endoscopy. Certain medications can interfere with the sedative you’re given to relax during the procedure. These medications include:

  • insulin
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • warfarin
  • heparin

Don’t make any changes to your daily dosage unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Know the Risks of the Procedure

Make sure you understand the risks of the procedure and the complications that might occur. Complications are rare, but can include the following:

  • Aspiration occurs when food or liquids get into the lungs. This can happen if you eat or drink before the procedure. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about fasting to prevent this complication.
  • An adverse reaction may happen if you’re allergic to certain medications, such as the sedatives you’re given to relax during the procedure. These drugs can also interfere with other medication you may be taking. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking.
  • Bleeding can occur if polyps are removed or if a biopsy is performed. However, bleeding is usually minor and can easily be remedied.
  • Tearing can happen in the area being examined. However, this is highly unlikely.

Arrange for a Ride Home

You’ll likely be given a narcotic and a sedative to help you relax during the endoscopy. You shouldn’t drive after the procedure because these drugs will make you drowsy. Arrange to have someone pick you up and drive you home. Some medical centers won’t allow you to have the procedure unless you arrange for a ride home ahead of time.

Don’t Eat or Drink

You shouldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure. This includes gum or mints. However, you can usually have clear liquids after midnight up to six hours before the endoscopy if your procedure is in the afternoon. Clear liquids include:

  • water
  • coffee without cream or sugar
  • apple juice
  • clear sodas
  • broth

You should avoid drinking anything red or orange.

Dress Comfortably

Although you’ll be given a medication to help you relax, an endoscopy can still cause some discomfort. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and avoid wearing jewelry. You’ll be asked to remove glasses or dentures before the procedure.

Bring Any Necessary Forms

Make sure to fill out the consent form and any other paperwork that your doctor has requested. Prepare all forms the night before the procedure, and put them in your bag so you don’t forget to bring them with you.

Plan for Time to Recover

You may have 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 to avoid making important life decisions until you’re completely recovered.