Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy - My experience

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After reading a large number of unsettling reviews of this procedure I decided after having the procedure myself I'd share my experience in a bid to reassure anyone who may be awaiting their own appointment. 

My GP referred me for the Endoscopy after reporting a few symptoms that had been bothering me for the past few years. I am a fit and generally healthy 25 yr old male but since my early 20's I've suffered with heartburn, acid reflux, palpitations, tenderness around the sternum, difficulty getting a full breath and most recently tightness in my throat and trouble swallowing (even to the point where I have choked on my food a few times or its got lodged have way down my oesophoagus and has taken hours to clear!). 

Anyway with that in mind I thought that the benefit of having the UGI outweighed any discomfort I might have to endure for what is a very short procedure time. 

I am quite a worrisome person and i tend to let my thoughts get out of hand sometimes, so as soon as I had confirmed my appointment date and time, it played on my mind and I couldn't help look at all the reviews previous patients had posted. Unfortunately a great deal of these reviews are extremely negative and do nothing to quash the fears of a worrier. 

On the day of my appointment I went to my local hospital's day procedure unit and checked in at the desk.

I had a short wait before a nurse called me in to discuss the procedure and reassure me on the simplicity of it. 

I had went with the intention of getting the conscious sedation but the nurse was fairly certain a "strapping young man such as myself" could do it no problem without it. 

For me the fact she herself had the procedure a few years ago herself was comforting to me and she described it as a "doddle". 

All in all the chat was fairly informal. All the while she was going over the details with me she was monitoring my blood pressure and heart rate and took my temperature. 

In general this was good pre-procedure preparation in my opinion as it took my mind off all those horrible reviews I'd read. 

She concluded the chat by telling me she had to be totally impartial about offering sedation or the local anaesthetic spray but she did gently try to persuade me to avoid the sedation. I was then told i didn't have to make a decision right there but before I was brought into the procedure room they would check with me to see if I'd decided. 

I went back out to the waiting area for a little while and had a chat with my dad and chilled out on the comfy seats. 

I always take him with me to these sort of things as he's perfect at helping distract me with a bit of banter and "craic". 

After about 45 minutes I was called into a little room beside the procedure room.

An assistant nurse (who was very comforting) talked through the process again with me and I signed a document to confirm I understood everything and the miniscule risk that is involved (as with every procedure). 

Once in the procedure room I had a small gown put over me and I met the doctor and the other nurses in the room (there was about 3 or 4 of them). 

My throat was sprayed 6 times in total with the numbing spray.

After about 10 seconds it was totally numb and for me personally this was the most uncomfortable part of the whole thing. It genuinely felt like I couldn't breath and i explained this to the nurses but they quickly attached an oxygen monitor onto my finger and the screen's read out showed 100% oxygen. So although it felt pretty weird this did comfort me as I knew it was just my mind playing tricks on me. 

It took me a few minutes to calm down as I had worked myself up by this point but the nurses were very reassuring and had me on my side a few moments later were a small mouth guard was placed over my teeth. 

I was really worried at this point as to what was about to happen but in reality it really wasn't all that bad. 

The tube about index finger width was placed towards the back of my mouth and I was told to swallow. 

I literally didn't feel a single gag. (I always thought i had a sensitive gag reflex but for me I didn't gag once the whole time). 

The feeling of the camera moving around in your throat/stomach is not something you could get used to it but it is not painful.

To hear of people gagging/squirming and describing the experience as the worst thing they've ever had to go through is in my opinion totally 

unnecessary and is simply scare mongering. 

The doc took a few samples using a thin peice of wire that is passed through the middle of the endoscope. I felt nothing when the samples were taken. I could feel little trickles of water down my throat as he studied the oesophagus closer (they do this to get a better view). 

That was actually quite a soothing feeling weirdly. 

I could see the doctor moving the camera around/moving it in deeper and shallower. I could sense something was there but generally it wasn't all that bad. Uncomfortable, but nothing out of this world scary or painful.

On withdrawl of the scope I let out a massive burp and gag but that was the only time during the whole procedure that i did so and it was actually pretty satisfying after having the scope in there for 4 or so minutes. 

I might add that the whole time during the procedure the nurses were comforting me; telling me how well I was doing and that it would be over soon. Having one holding onto my hand, one with a hand on my side and one patting my head gently was for me exactly what I needed.

I focused on their words the whole time and tried not to pay too much attention to what was going on. 

Afterward the camera was removed the doc gave me a quick summary of his findings (inflammation of the stomach) which i was pleasantly surprised with as I had convinced myself over the years I had a hiatal hernia and all sorts of scarring on my oesophagus. 

He recommended 3 months course of PPI medication similar to one I had taken in the past before my diagnosis but I hadn't been able to take due to them upsetting my stomach. (I see my GP tomorrow to hopefully get started on these). 

I was then wheeled out to the recovery room and the nurses gave me a small envelope to give to my GP.

I was told not to drink for at least 1 hour. 

I was up and on my feet within 10 minutes and for me all the nurses and the doc did an excellent job (even though i was the last appointment of the day) I hadn't once felt rushed or pushed by any of them. 

All in all not a bad experience; yes a bit uncomfortable but in the grand scheme of things and of all the things we may have to confront in our lives not a big deal.

Please, try not to worry too much, its short and its over before you know it and generally our NHS staff our amazing and will do their very best to comfort you. 

Don't listen to all the drama queens folks. I live to fight another day!

Think positive and all the best with your procedure. 


1 like, 26 replies

26 Replies

  • Posted

    I'm with you. This procedure is easy. Mind you I always opt for the max sedation level. So, I never experience anything after the mouthpiece is inserted. The next thing I know, I have woken up in my recovery room. Nice & relaxed, and welcomed with a lovely hot cup of tea...

    • Posted

      Glad you agree Charles! There are too many negative comments out there on this procedure. I think the problem is, those who don't complain tend to be less likely to leave a comment but for some reason a lot of patients who have a bad experience will post about it and it doesn't help when alot of them are prone to exaggeration. 

      I'm glad to hear a positive experience regarding the sedation too. I was always told you would be aware of what was going on so I opted to go without. Either way its not anywhere near as bad as some would make it out to be. I'm sure someone with a serious disease would happily swap there treatments for a little tube down the throat for 5 minutes! 


    • Posted

      At my hospital, you get the option of no sedation, mild sedation, moderate sedation and heavy sedation. I always opt for the latter. I really don't have any interest in watching the screen. Heavy sedation involves 5mg Midazolam & 50mg of Pethedine [opiate]. Basically, this literally puts you too sleep without making you unconscious. So, you can still feel pain, and I think you are rowsable. But, I have to say, it felt like induction before a general anaesthetic. I tried counting to 10, and got to about 5. And, then bang. Out for the count.

    • Posted

      I know that some hospitals are now using propofol for sedation, which is a lot cleaner than using benzodiazepines. Propofol is in fact an induction agent, that anaesthetists give before undergoing surgery. The recovery is much faster and there is no ongoing drowsiness, after the procedure. When, I mentioned this to the nurse, she thought I had gone mad. But, I have read a white paper on this being adopted for endoscopy sedation.
    • Posted

      Did you have any stomach discomfort after you got home. im having a bit right now and i just got home from an endoscopy but maybe it's normal to have a bit.

    • Posted

      Carol. I didn't have any stomach discomfort afterwards, but it depends on what kind of biopsies & tests they did during the procedure. I had one Urease test & two D2 tests, which are fairly mild biopsies. If the consultant did a bit of digging in the stomach, it may take a few days to settle down.

    • Posted

      Thanks Charles. Ya I didn't have any biopsies. The Dr. said everything looked ok . I guess it might make sense that after having a camera and tube in your stomach that there might be some discomfort afterward. Right now I have a splitting headache. I had the procedure done today. Do you think it's ok to take a Tylenol?

    • Posted

      It also depends on the skill of the specialist, and his/her ability to manoeuvre the endoscope. The headache maybe a side affect from any sedation, you may have have had. Sedation usually involves a benzodiazepine & a strong opiate. To be honest, these substances usually make me feel very relaxed for the rest of the day, but I guess everyone is affected differently.

    • Posted

      Thanks Charles. I've had a few endoscopies in the past and felt relaxed afterward as you mentioned.That's why this time I wondered about the headache. I guess it's likely a side effect from the sedation.

  • Posted

    Thanks for the positive recounting of your experience.

    I may add this (anonymously) to the booklet I am preparing of patients' experiences that may help first timers at our local hospitals.

    I do now have a number of endoscopy experiences and a couple of the pH24 manometry procedure.

    If anyone has (or recently has had) any other oesophageal procedure (measurement or surgery) eg. barium swallow, dilation, ablation, resection, fundoplication, LINX, Stretta etc. I would welcome any reports of your experience that may help patients about to undergo one of these procedures.

  • Posted

    I have to say I disagree with your statement about negative comments being totally unnecessary and only scaremongering.

    I had this procedure last week. I was not too worried about it as I didn't think it would be too bad. I eventually decided I would go for the sedation just in case it was worse than I thought. However after 4 attempts to administer it, they failed to do so (couldn't find a vein) so I agreed to let them do the procedure without.

    It didn't start off too badly. Of course it was uncomfortable and the spray wasn't very nice but it was ok. The part which they said would be the worst (swallowing the camera) was actually the least difficult part. After I swallowed it, I continued to gag violently throughout the whole procedure (about 10 minutes). It became more violent throughout the procedure and got to the point where the power of the reflex was actually hurting my ribs. I really struggled to breathe with all the stuff I was bringing up and excess saliva. I felt like I was drowning. Being able to feel absolutely every movement of the tube was also horrendous. Despite hearing it shouldn't be painful, I experienced pain several times when they were in my stomach.

    Overall it was probably the worst 10 minutes of my life and that is no exaggeration. I felt like I was drowning for half the procedure and by the time I had finished, I was so traumatised by it I couldn't stop shaking (in the recovery room they actually asked if I was cold, it was that bad).

    However, having said this I have read a lot of comments saying the procedure isn't too bad but most of the people you read who have said such things generally had sedation.

    I actually wish I had seen more negative reviews (I had only seen fairly positive ones) beforehand because then there would have been no way I would've gone through the procedure without sedation.

    • Posted

      You should have insisted on sedation. To be honest those medics sound totally incompetent, in not being able to administer simple sedation, which is essentially an intravenous injection of a benzodiazepine & an opiate. Trust me, if you go for the strong sedation option, you won't experience anything at all, except a nice relaxing dream or two...

    • Posted

      The procedure with sedation to myself, was like no procedure at all. They wheeled me into the room , gave me the sedation, and the last thing I remember is the anastesiogist telling me to take 3 deep breaths. That was it!! I woke up back in the original room in what felt like no time. I've had 3 endoscopies and it's been the easiest thing there is. I would never in my lifetime however choose to have it done without the sedation.

    • Posted

      Carol. I totally agree. Sedation every time. In fact, I don't know why people have the procedure without sedation. Honestly, I never felt a thing. Like you, I was told to count down from 10, and at about 5, I was asleep. Next thing, I knew, I was walking up in my recovery room.

    • Posted

      Hi Charles. For the life of me I too cannot fathom why people would choose not to be sedated. Are they scared they'll be administered too much and will never wake up again? What are the odds of that happening. People are taken like cattle (lol) into the procedure room and out again on a daily basis. The anastesiologists know how to do this as easily as putting a band aid on your finger. That's the only reason I can think of why people would turn it down.

    • Posted

      Carol. I think maybe people are worried about the drugs, used in sedation & the unwanted side effects. So, let me clear this up.

      In the UK, most consultants use 5mg Midazolam, which is a benzodiazepine and 50mg Pethedine, which is an opiate. These two drugs are extremely safe, when used once in a while. In the US, sedation is often carried out using an anaesthetic induction agent called Propofol. This drug is also very safe when administered by a qualified Anaesthetist. It is more powerful than the combination approach, and produces less drowsiness after recovery.

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