Upper endoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine).
Your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which has its own lens and light source, and will view the images on a video monitor. You might hear your doctor or other medical staff refer to upper endoscopy as upper GI endoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or panendoscopy.
Upper endoscopy helps your doctor evaluate symptoms of persistent upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It’s the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. It’s also more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumours of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
Your doctor might use upper endoscopy to obtain a biopsy (small tissue samples). A biopsy helps your doctor distinguish between benign and malignant (cancerous) tissues. Remember, biopsies are taken for many reasons, and your doctor might order one even if he or she does not suspect cancer. For example, your doctor might use a biopsy to test for Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes ulcers.
Your doctor might also use upper endoscopy to perform a cytology test, where he or she will introduce a small brush to collect cells for analysis.
Upper endoscopy is also used to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor can pass instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities – this will cause you little or no discomfort. For example, your doctor might stretch (dilate) a narrowed area, remove polyps (usually benign growths) or treat bleeding.