Why it's used
A gastroscopy can be used to check symptoms or confirm a diagnosis, or it can be used to treat a condition.
A gastroscopy may be recommended if you have symptoms that suggest a problem with your stomach, oesophagus (gullet), or the first section of your small intestine (duodenum).
Problems that are sometimes investigated using a gastroscopy include:
- abdominal (tummy) pain or stomach ache
- heartburn or indigestion
- persistently feeling and being sick
- difficulties swallowing or pain when swallowing (dysphagia)
- a reduced number of red blood cells (iron deficiency anaemia), which may be caused by persistent internal bleeding
- severe bleeding, which may have caused a sudden, sharp pain in your abdomen, vomiting blood or very dark or "tar-like" poo
A gastroscopy is also used to help confirm (or rule out) suspected conditions, such as:
- stomach ulcers (sometimes known as peptic ulcers) – open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach and small intestine
- gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – heartburn, where stomach acid keeps leaking back up into the oesophagus
- coeliac disease – a common digestive condition, where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten in food
- Barrett's oesophagus – abnormal cells on the lining of the oesophagus
- portal hypertension – where the blood pressure inside the liver is abnormally high, causing swollen veins (varices) to develop on the lining of the stomach and oesophagus
- stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer
As well as examining the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum, the endoscope (a thin, flexible tube that's passed down your throat) can be used to remove small samples of tissue for testing. This is known as a biopsy.
A gastroscopy can also be carried out to treat some problems affecting the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum.
For example, a gastroscopy can be used to:
- stop bleeding inside the stomach or oesophagus, such as bleeding caused by a stomach ulcer or enlarged veins (varices)
- widen a narrowed oesophagus that's causing pain or swallowing difficulties – this can be caused by GORD, oesophageal cancer, or radiotherapy to the oesophagus
- remove cancerous tumours, non-cancerous growths (polyps) or foreign objects
- provide nutrients – a gastroscopy can help doctors guide a feeding tube into the stomach, when a person is unable to eat in the normal way