Gastroscopy – Looking Inside

Gastroscopy is the result of curiousness of human beings regarding their own body. There are historical evidences of crude instruments to explore the body’s orifices, around 5000 years old from Ancient Egypt but the early attempts to penetrate darkness was limited to throat and anus. The 19th century experiments were done on circus sword swallowers but the significant invention of flexible fibre-optic cable in 1950s led to a new era of thin flexible medical instruments and tremendous progress has been made over the past 60 years.

Gastroscopy procedure includes examination of the insides of the stomach, gullet and duodenum. This procedure is performed by using a thin, flexible fibre-optic instrument with the width of a pencil and a computerized colour video chip with wide-angle lens in the end, to be swallowed. The doctor can move the other end which allows him to check the damage to the lining of oesophagus (gullet) or stomach and ulcers in duodenum or stomach. This whole procedure is painless as the patient is sedated and there is no incision. Also there is no difficulty in breathing as the gastroscope enters food pipe, not the wind pipe. Possible complications inlcude drug reactions, infection, bleeding, or perforation of the digestive tract which might require surgery. When performed by a physician who is specially trained and experienced in the procedure, the benefits of gastroscopy far exceed the risks.

The reasons for a gastroscopy recommendation may be disorders of the upper digestive tract like Abdominal pain, Bleeding from the digestive tract, Cancers of the stomach or esophagus, Chronic heartburn and indigestion, Gastritis, or stomach inflammation, Nausea/Vomiting, Removal of swallowed objects, Stomach polyps, Trouble swallowing, Ulcers of the esophagus, Ulcers of the stomach, Ulcers of the duodenum, Unexplained chest pain, Unexplained weight loss etc.

The gastroscope is a multi-utilization tool which allows the doctor to perform various actions like infusing air from the air channel to inflate the stomach for a better view. There is a little vacuum cleaner if some fluid or debris is present and a windshield spray in case the camera lens is obscured by mucus. Any abnormal condition like ulcer can also be photographed for permanent records.

The best part about gastroscopy is that its results are readily available unlike X-rays which have to be developed and interpreted. Newer computerized systems allow a completed report with color photographs to be printed within minutes of the examination. Of course, any specimens or biopsies that are obtained have to be sent to the laboratory and those results may take up to a week. Also, one has to be careful regarding instrument sterilization. All accessories should be cleaned and sterilized using high temperature steam autoclaves, so that patients do not risk infection during a scope examination. Gastroscopy is an extremely safe and worthwhile procedure that is very well tolerated.