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Upper GI Endoscopy

(Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy; Esophagogastroduodenoscopy [EGD])

Animation Movie Available Click here to view an animated version of this test.


Definition    TOP

An upper GI endoscopy is a test that allows the doctor to see inside the body. It is used to look at the throat, esophagus, and stomach. The upper part of the small intestines may also be examined.

Upper GI Endoscopy

Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Reasons for Test    TOP

Upper GI endoscopy may be done to look for reasons behind:

  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Severe heartburn
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • Abnormal x-ray or other examinations of the gastrointestinal tract

An upper GI endoscopy may also be done to look for suspected problems such as:

  • Ulcers
  • Tumors
  • Polyps
  • Abnormal narrowing
  • Inflammation

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Bleeding
  • Damage to the esophagus, stomach, or intestine, including perforation
  • Infection
  • Reduced breathing rate and/or depth
  • Reaction to sedatives or anesthesia

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Increasing age, especially age 60 and older
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking, alcohol use disorder, or drug use
  • Malnutrition
  • Recent illness
  • Diabetes
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Use of certain medications

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to test

Leading up to the test:

  • Your doctor may instruct you to take antibiotics.
  • Arrange for a ride home after the test. Also, arrange for help at home.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything for 6-10 hours before the test.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medicine you are taking. You may need to stop taking some medicine up to one week before the procedure.

Description of the Test

To get you ready the care team may give you:

  • Medicine to numb the throat—may be a liquid for you to gargle or a spray
  • Medicine to help you relax—often passed directly into your blood through an IV

You may be asked to lie on your left side. Monitors will track your breathing and heart rate. A tube may also be placed under your nose to provide extra oxygen.

A special mouthpiece will help keep your mouth open. During the test, a small suction tube will clear saliva and fluids from your mouth. The endoscope is a long tube with a light and camera at the end of it. A lotion will be placed on the tube to help it move easier through the digestive tract. The doctor will place the tube in your mouth. You will be asked to try to swallow it. The doctor will carefully and slowly continue to pass the tube down the tract. A nearby screen will show images of the tract as the tube is passing through.

Air may be passed through the scope. The air can press open the tract and smooth the normal folds in the tissues. This will make it easier to see the tract. Special tools may be passed through the tube. They can be used to take a sample of tissue for testing or do other procedures.

After Test    TOP

After the test, you will be observed for an hour. Then, you will be able to go home.

For the rest of the day:

  • Do not drive or use heavy machines for the rest of the day.
  • Avoid alcohol for the rest of the day.
  • Do not make any life-changing decisions. Do not sign legal documents.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

About 10-15 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP

You will have discomfort during the test. Your throat will be sore. The air that is used can also make you feel bloated. This should pass over the next couple of days.

Results    TOP

You and your doctor will talk about the results. It may help to explain your symptoms or just rule out other conditions.


Call Your Doctor    TOP

It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Hard, swollen abdomen
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Any change or increase in your original symptoms
  • Bloody or black tarry colored stools
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Bleeding

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Gastroenterological Association

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy


Canadian Digestive Health Foundation

Health Canada


Davila M, Keeffe E. Complications of Upper Endoscopy. In: Feldman M, Friedman L, Sleisenger M. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2002:539-543.

Understanding upper endoscopy. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy website. Available at: https://www.asge.org/list-pages/patient-informations/understanding-upper-endoscopy. Accessed October 3, 2017.

Upper GI endoscopy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/upper-gi-endoscopy. Updated July 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013

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