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The Pros and Cons of Gastroscopy: Benefits and Risks Explained

The world of medical technology has advanced significantly over the years, bringing about numerous procedures and tests to diagnose and treat disorders. One of these procedures is gastroscopy, also known as upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.

Gastroscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the lining of the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It involves using a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light source at the end to view the inside of these organs.

While gastroscopy has its benefits in diagnosing and treating certain conditions, it also comes with potential risks. Today, we will explore the pros and cons of gastroscopy to help you understand the procedure better.

 

Understanding the Significance of Gastroscopy

As mentioned, gastroscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows doctors to view the inside of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum.

This can help identify abnormalities, such as inflammation, ulcers, tumours, and bleeding. With the use of specialised instruments, biopsies (tissue samples) can also be taken during a gastroscopy for further examination.

Gastroscopy is primarily used to diagnose and treat conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, coeliac disease, Barrett’s oesophagus, and stomach cancer. It is also commonly used to remove foreign objects or polyps in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

Narrow band imaging (NBI) is a special imaging technology used during endoscopy. NBI specifically uses narrow bands of light. These bands of light are focused on certain wavelengths that are absorbed differently by different tissues in your body.

So the doctor can see a clearer and more detailed image of the tissue lining inside your gastrointestinal tract. This helps them to better spot abnormalities, such as early signs of cancer or other diseases, because certain tissues will appear differently under this specialised lighting.

 

Polyp under white light vs Polyp under NBI

 

Gastric intestinal metaplasia under white light vs Gastric intestinal metaplasia under NBI

 

Benefits of Gastroscopy

a) High accuracy in diagnosis

Gastroscopy allows doctors to directly visualise the inside of the digestive tract, making it one of the most accurate diagnostic tools for various digestive disorders.

This is especially helpful in detecting small ulcers, polyps, and other abnormalities that may not show up on other imaging tests.

 

b) Painless procedure

Gastroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require any incisions or injections.

The endoscope used is very thin and flexible, making it easy to pass through the digestive tract without causing any pain or discomfort. Anesthesia is also administered to ensure patient comfort during the procedure.

 

c) Quick and convenient

Gastroscopy is a relatively quick procedure, usually taking between 20 minutes to complete. This makes it a convenient option for patients with busy schedules or need immediate diagnosis and treatment.

 

d) Multiple uses

Apart from diagnosing digestive disorders, gastroscopy also allows doctors to take tissue samples (biopsies) for further testing and perform procedures, such as removing polyps or treating bleeding ulcers.

 

Risks of Gastroscopy

a) Possible complications

While gastroscopy is considered safe, there is still a small risk (1 in 3000-5000) of complications, such as bleeding, infection, and perforation (tearing) of the digestive tract.

These complications are rare, but can occur in patients with underlying health conditions or when the procedure is not performed correctly.

 

b) Discomfort and potential side effects

Although gastroscopy is a painless procedure, some patients may experience discomfort during or after the procedure. This could be due to throat irritation from the endoscope or bloating and cramping from air introduced into the digestive tract during the procedure.

Some patients may also experience side effects from anaesthesia, such as drowsiness and nausea.

 

c) Inaccurate results

Although gastroscopy is a highly accurate diagnostic tool, there is still a small chance of obtaining inaccurate results due to human error or technical issues with the test kit or equipment used.

In some cases, doctors may need to perform additional tests or repeat the procedure to confirm a diagnosis.

 

Takeaway

Gastroscopy has revolutionised the diagnosis and treatment of various digestive disorders, providing numerous benefits for patients. However, it is essential to understand and weigh the potential risks associated with the procedure before undergoing it.

Consultation with a gastroenterology doctor and thorough preparation can help minimise the risks and make the procedure more effective.

Remember, early detection of digestive disorders can lead to better treatment outcomes. Therefore, do not hesitate to undergo gastroscopy if recommended by your doctor.

 

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