A gastroscope is a type of 'endoscope' used to examine parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Endoscopes, in use in medicine since the 1950s. allow medical specialists to view inside the body and perform some surgical procedures, without the need for open surgery. Gastroscopes and colonoscopes are thin tubes equipped with a miniature video camera and light and some surgical instruments, which are introduced via the natural body openings - the mouth and the anus.
With its surgical instruments, a gastroscope can for example take tissue samples (biopsies) and stem / stop any bleeding from an ulcer.
Endoscopic procedures are much less stressful to the body than conventional surgery and allow the examination to be completed much more quickly and of course without any surgical scarring. Recovery / observation times are also much shorter, with most patients able to return home on the same day.
Gastroscopy is used to help in the diagnosis of conditions affecting the oesophagus (the 'foodpipe' or 'gullet'), the stomach or the duodenum (the first section of the intestine attached to the stomach). Symptoms of these conditions generally include pain in the abdomen, unexplained vomiting, or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a more accurate diagnostic tool than x-rays.
Preparation for a gastroscopy is straightforward - nothing should be eaten or drunk in the six hours immediately prior to the procedure. The procedure is carried out under a mild sedative and occasionally a local anaesthetic is applied to the back of the throat to prevent a gag reflex as the gastroscope is introduced in the mouth. The gastroscopic examination normally takes less than 30 minutes and patients must stay under observation for two hours afterwards, at which point they can generally return home. As patients are given a mild sedative they should not drive themselves afterwards and should take the rest of the day off work.