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​Digestive Disease Information 


  • Phone: 1–800–891–5389
  • TTY: 1–866–569–1162
  • Email: nddic@info.niddk.nih.gov
  • Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time, M-F

Digestive Disease Organizations

There are many organizations who provide support for patients and medical professionals. View the full list of Digestive Disease Organizations​​ (PDF, 341 KB)​​​​.

Upper GI Endoscopy

What is upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy?

Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses an endoscope—a long, flexible tube with a camera—to see the lining of your upper GI tract. A gastroenterologist, surgeon, or other trained health care provider performs the procedure, most often while you receive light sedation. Your doctor may also call the procedure an EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy.

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Why do doctors use upper GI endoscopy?

Upper GI endoscopy can help find the cause of unexplained symptoms, such as

  • persistent heartburn
  • bleeding
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain
  • problems swallowing
  • unexplained weight loss

Upper GI endoscopy can also find the cause of abnormal lab tests, such as

  • anemia
  • ​nutritional deficiencies

Upper GI endoscopy can identify many different diseases

During upper GI endoscopy, a doctor obtains biopsies by passing an instrument through the endoscope to obtain a small piece of tissue. Biopsies are needed to diagnose conditions such as

  • cancer
  • celiac disease
  • gastritis

Doctors also use upper GI endoscopy to

  • treat conditions such as bleeding ulcers
  • dilate strictures with a small balloon passed through the endoscope
  • remove objects, including food, that may be stuck in the upper GI tract

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How do I prepare for an upper GI endoscopy?

Talk with your doctor
You should talk with your doctor about medical conditions you have and all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take, including

  • aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin
  • arthritis medicines
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • blood thinners
  • blood pressure medicines
  • diabetes medicines
Arrange for a ride home
For safety reasons, you can't drive for 24 hours after the procedure, as the sedatives used during the procedure need time to wear off. You will need to make plans for getting a ride home after the procedure.

Do not eat or drink before the procedure
The doctor needs to examine the lining of your upper GI tract during the procedure. If food or drink is in your upper GI tract when you have the procedure, the doctor will not be able to see this lining clearly. To make sure your upper GI tract is clear, the doctor will most often advise you not to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum during the 8 hours before the procedure.

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How do doctors perform an upper GI endoscopy?


A doctor performs an upper GI endoscopy in a hospital or an outpatient center. An intravenous (IV) needle will be placed in your arm to provide a sedative. Sedatives help you stay relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In some cases, the procedure can be performed without sedation. You will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or spray anesthetic on the back of your throat. The anesthetic numbs your throat and calms the gag reflex. The health care staff will monitor your vital signs and keep you as comfortable as possible.

You’ll be asked to lie on your side on an exam table. The doctor will carefully feed the endoscope down your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum.A small camera mounted on the endoscope will send a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the lining of your upper GI tract. The endoscope pumps air into your stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see.

During the upper GI endoscopy, the doctor may

  • perform a biopsy of tissue in your upper GI tract. You won’t feel the biopsy.
  • stop any bleeding.
  • perform other specialized procedures, such as dilating strictures.
​​​The procedure most often takes between 15 and 30 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing, and many people fall asleep during the procedure.

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What should I expect from an upper GI endoscopy?

After an upper GI endoscopy, you can expect the following:

  • to stay at the hospital or outpatient center for 1 to 2 hours after the procedure so the sedative can wear off​
  • bloating or nausea for a short time after the procedure
  • a sore throat for 1 to 2 days to go back to your normal diet once your swallowing has returned to normal
  • to rest at home for the remainder of the day

Following the procedure, you—or a friend or family member who is with you if you’re still groggy—will receive instructions on how to care for yourself following the procedure. You should follow all instructions.

Some results from an upper GI endoscopy are available right away after the procedure. After the sedative has worn off, the doctor will share these results with you or, if you choose, with your friend or family member. A pathologist will examine the biopsy tissue to help confirm a diagnosis. Biopsy results take a few days or longer to come back.​

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What are the risks of an upper GI endoscopy?

The risks of an upper GI endoscopy include

  • bleeding from the site where the doctor took the biopsy or removed a polyp
  • perforation in the lining of your upper GI tract
  • an abnormal reaction to the sedative, including respiratory or cardiac problems

Bleeding and perforation are more common in endoscopies used for treatment rather than testing. Bleeding caused by the procedure often stops without treatment. Research has shown that serious complications occur in one out of every 1,000 upper GI endoscopies.1 A doctor may need to perform surgery to treat some complications. A doctor can treat an abnormal reaction to a sedative with medicines or IV fluids during or after the procedure.

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Seek Care Right Away

If you have any of the following symptoms after an upper GI endoscopy, seek medical care right away:

  • chest pain
  • problems breathing
  • problems swallowing or throat pain that gets worse
  • vomiting—particularly if your vomit is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • pain in your abdomen that gets worse
  • bloody or black, tar-colored stool
  • fever​

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1Yusuf TE, Bhutani MS. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Medscape website. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1851864-overview#a17 . Updated June 3, 2013. Accessed July 8, 2014.​

Points to Remember

  • An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope—a small, flexible tube with a light—to see the lining of the upper GI tract.
  • An upper GI endoscopy can help diagnose the cause of
    • abdominal pain
    • anemia—a condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal, resulting in less oxygen carried to the body’s cells
    • bleeding in the upper GI tract
    • nausea and vomiting
    • problems swallowing
    • unexplained weight loss
  • To ensure that the upper GI tract is clear, health care providers usually advise people not to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum during the 8 hours before the procedure.
  • The health care provider carefully feeds the endoscope down the person’s esophagus and into the stomach and duodenum. A small camera mounted on the endoscope sends a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the intestinal lining.
  • After an upper GI endoscopy, a person can expect the following:
    • bloating or nausea for a short time after the procedure
    • a sore throat for 1 to 2 days
    • to stay at the hospital or outpatient center for 1 to 2 hours after the procedure so the sedation can wear off
    • to resume a normal diet once his or her gag reflex has returned
    • to rest at home for the remainder of the day
  • People who have any of the following symptoms after an upper GI endoscopy should seek immediate medical attention:
    • chest pain
    • difficulty breathing
    • problems swallowing or throat pain that worsens
    • vomiting—particularly vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
    • abdominal pain that worsens
    • bloody or black, tar-colored stool
    • fever

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Hope through Research

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conducts and supports basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders.

Clinical trials are research studies involving people. Clinical trials look at safe and effective new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. To learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate, visit the NIH Clinical Research Trials and You website at www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials. For information about current studies, visit www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

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For More Information

Read more about other diagnostic tests in these publications at www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov:

American College of Gastroenterology
6400 Goldsboro Road, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20817
Phone: 301–263–9000
Fax: 301–263–9025
Email: info@acg.gi.org
Internet: www.gi.org

American Gastroenterological Association
4930 Del Ray Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone: 301–654–2055
Fax: 301–654–5920
Email: member@gastro.org
Internet: www.gastro.org

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
3300 Woodcreek Drive
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Phone: 1–866–353–ASGE (1–866–353–2743) or 630–573–0600
Fax: 630–963–8332
Email: info@asge.org
Internet: www.asge.org

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
700 West Virginia Street, Suite 201
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone: 1–888–964–2001 or 414–964–1799
Fax: 414–964–7176
Email: iffgd@iffgd.org
Internet: www.iffgd.org

National Cancer Institute
BG 9609 MCS 9760
9609 Medical Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 1–800–4–CANCER (1–800–422–6237)
Internet: www.cancer.gov

Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons
11300 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone: 310–437–0544
Email: webmaster@sages.org
Internet: www.sages.org

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Acknowledgments

Publications produced by the Clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This publication was originally reviewed by Michael Wallace, M.D., Mayo Clinic.

You may also find additional information about this topic by visiting MedlinePlus at www.medlineplus.gov.

This publication may contain information about medications and, when taken as prescribed, the conditions they treat. When prepared, this publication included the most current information available. For updates or for questions about any medications, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toll-free at 1–888–INFO–FDA (1–888–463–6332) or visit www.fda.gov. Consult your health care provider for more information.

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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3570
Phone: 1–800–891–5389
TTY: 1–866–569–1162
Fax: 703–738–4929
Email: nddic@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the Clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.

This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.


NIH Publication No. 14–4333
April 2014

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Page last updated May 7, 2014