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Gastroscopy, a crucial diagnostic tool in modern medicine, provides a direct and visual exploration of the upper gastrointestinal tract.

In this extensive guide, we will navigate through the world of gastroscopy, unraveling its intricacies, exploring its purpose, diving into the procedure itself, and addressing the crucial aspects of preparation, risks, benefits, and post-procedure care.

By understanding gastroscopy comprehensively, individuals can approach this medical procedure with confidence, knowing its significance in uncovering vital insights into digestive health.

The Essence of Gastroscopy

At its core, gastroscopy is a procedure designed to examine the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract using a flexible endoscope equipped with a tiny camera.

This instrument becomes a lens into the intricate world of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, aiding healthcare providers in diagnosing a spectrum of GI conditions.


The Purpose and Benefits

Gastroscopy serves as a diagnostic powerhouse, particularly when symptoms such as persistent abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, or unexplained weight loss arise.

Beyond visual inspection, the procedure allows for the collection of tissue samples (biopsies), aiding in the identification of conditions like inflammation, ulcers, tumors, or infections.

Gastroscopy Step by Step

Gastroscopy, also known as upper endoscopy, is a medical procedure that allows healthcare providers to examine the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.

This step-by-step guide provides an overview of what individuals can expect during a gastroscopy procedure.


Before the procedure, individuals are typically required to fast for a specified period, usually overnight. This empty stomach allows for better visualization during the gastroscopy.

Medication Review
It’s essential to review medications with the healthcare provider, as some medications may need to be adjusted or temporarily stopped before the procedure.

Upon arrival, individuals will go through the registration process. This involves providing necessary information and completing any required paperwork.

Vital Signs
Vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation, may be checked before the procedure.

Patient Consent
The healthcare provider will explain the procedure, its purpose, potential risks, and benefits. Individuals will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide informed consent for the gastroscopy.

Sedation Option
Gastroscopy is often performed with the use of sedation to enhance patient comfort. The type and level of sedation will be discussed with the healthcare provider, and the patient’s vital signs will be monitored throughout the procedure.

Positioning for Comfort
The individual will be positioned on their left side or back, and a mouthguard may be inserted to protect the teeth and the endoscope during the procedure.

Insertion of the Endoscope
Throat Numbing:  Before the insertion of the endoscope, the back of the throat may be sprayed with a numbing agent to minimize discomfort.

Flexible Endoscope
The gastroenterologist will gently insert the flexible endoscope through the mouth and into the esophagus. The endoscope contains a light and a small camera at its tip.

Visual Inspection
The healthcare provider will carefully guide the endoscope through the esophagus, stomach, and into the duodenum. Images from the camera are transmitted to a monitor in real-time, allowing for a visual inspection of the gastrointestinal lining.

Biopsy and Therapeutic Interventions (if needed)
If abnormalities are detected, the healthcare provider may take tissue samples (biopsies) for further analysis.

Therapeutic Interventions
Gastroscopy can also be used for therapeutic purposes, such as removing polyps or stopping bleeding.

Conclusion of the Procedure
Endoscope Removal – Once the examination and any necessary interventions are complete, the endoscope is gently withdrawn.

Recovery Individuals are monitored in a recovery area until the effects of sedation wear off. This may take a variable amount of time, and patients are typically advised not to drive for the rest of the day.

It’s important for individuals undergoing gastroscopy to follow pre-procedural instructions carefully and communicate openly with their healthcare team.

This step-by-step guide provides a general overview, but individual experiences may vary based on the specifics of the procedure and the patient’s unique circumstances.


Risks and Complications

Gastroscopy, while generally considered a safe and valuable diagnostic tool, like any medical procedure, comes with its set of potential risks and complications.

It’s essential for individuals undergoing or considering gastroscopy to be aware of these factors.

In this section, we will delve into the risks associated with gastroscopy, emphasizing that these occurrences are relatively uncommon but important to understand.


  • Description
    Gastroscopy involves the insertion of a flexible endoscope through the mouth and down the esophagus, and occasionally, biopsies or other therapeutic procedures may be performed. This can, in rare cases, cause bleeding.
  • Severity
    Most cases involve minimal bleeding that stops on its own, but there is a risk of more significant bleeding requiring intervention.


  • Description
    The passage of the endoscope through the digestive tract carries a slight risk of perforation or a small tear in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum.
  • Severity
    Perforation is an infrequent complication, and severe cases may require immediate medical attention and intervention.

Reaction to Sedation

  • Description
    Sedation is often administered to enhance patient comfort during the procedure. While adverse reactions are rare, they can include respiratory issues or allergic responses to the medications used.
  • Severity
    Close monitoring during the procedure mitigates the risks, and healthcare providers are trained to manage any unexpected reactions promptly.


  • Description
    Although the risk is minimal, there’s a potential for infection, particularly if the endoscope or other equipment used during the procedure is not adequately sterilized.
  • Prevention
    Rigorous adherence to infection control protocols and proper sterilization practices significantly minimizes the risk.

Discomfort and Reaction to Scope Insertion

  • Description:
    Some individuals may experience discomfort, throat irritation, or a gagging reflex during the insertion of the endoscope.
  • Severity
    This is a common and temporary side effect. Adequate sedation helps minimize discomfort.


  • Description
    Aspiration involves inhaling stomach contents into the lungs, and it can occur if vomiting occurs during the procedure.
  • Prevention
    Patient fasting before the procedure reduces the risk of aspiration.

Persistent Pain or Fever

  • Description
    Some individuals may experience persistent pain or fever after the procedure, which may indicate an underlying issue.
  • Severity
    While uncommon, persistent symptoms should be reported to healthcare providers for further evaluation.

It’s crucial for individuals considering or undergoing gastroscopy to discuss these potential risks with their healthcare providers.

Providers will assess each patient’s unique medical history and circumstances, taking steps to minimize risks and ensure a safe procedure.

The benefits of gastroscopy, including its role in diagnosing and managing gastrointestinal conditions, often outweigh the potential risks.

Open communication with healthcare providers, adherence to pre-procedural instructions, and prompt reporting of any unexpected symptoms contribute to a safe and effective gastroscopic experience.




Post-Gastroscopy Care

Once the gastroscopic odyssey is complete, patients may encounter mild post-procedural discomfort, such as a sore throat or bloating.


Gastroscopy stands as a beacon in the realm of medical diagnostics, offering a direct and illuminating view into the upper gastrointestinal tract.

As we conclude this comprehensive guide, the significance of gastroscopy in uncovering crucial details about digestive health becomes clear.

Armed with knowledge about the procedure, its purpose, preparation, risks, and benefits, individuals can approach gastroscopy with informed confidence, understanding that this medical odyssey plays a vital role in maintaining and restoring optimal digestive well-being.


Contact Dr. Deetlefs

Dr Eduan prides himself on his ability to help his patients to the best of his ability by embracing good listening skills, effective communication, compassion and knowledge and skill honed during years of private gastroenterology practice.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.