What is an upper GI endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube. A specialist in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) uses an endoscopy to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).

The medical term for an upper endoscopy is esophagogastroduodenoscopy. You may have an upper endoscopy done in your doctor’s office, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital.

Why it’s done

An upper endoscopy is used to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the upper part of your digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).

Your doctor may recommend an endoscopy procedure to:

  • Investigate signs and symptoms. An endoscopy may help your doctor determine what’s causing digestive signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing and gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Diagnose. Your doctor may use an endoscopy to collect tissue samples (biopsy) to test for diseases and conditions, such as anemia, bleeding, inflammation, diarrhea or cancers of the digestive system.
  • Treat. Your doctor can pass special tools through the endoscope to treat problems in your digestive system, such as widening a narrow esophagus, clipping off a polyp or removing a foreign object

An endoscopy is sometimes combined with other procedures, such as an ultrasound. An ultrasound probe may be attached to the endoscope to create specialized images of the wall of your esophagus or stomach. An endoscopic ultrasound may also help your doctor create images of hard-to-reach organs, such as your pancreas. Newer endoscopes use high-definition video to provide clearer images.

Many endoscopes have technology called narrow band imaging, which uses special light to help doctors better detect precancerous conditions, such as Barrett’s esophagus.