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Patient information A-Z

Before your appointment

  • All medications should be taken as normal with a little water.
  • If you take Warfarin or Clopidogrel or other blood thinning medication please contact the Endoscopy Nurses when you receive this information on 01223 216515. You may need to stop your medication prior to your procedure. If you take Aspirin only please continue.
  • If you have any questions about the procedure or find that you cannot keep this appointment, please contact the endoscopy office between 9:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday on 01223 257080.

On the day

  • Have nothing to eat for six hours and nothing to drink for four hours before your appointment.
  • If you want to have sedation please ensure you have arranged an escort home. We cannot sedate you if you do not provide details of your escort.

At the hospital

  • Please come to the endoscopy department on level 3 of the Addenbrookes Treatment Centre (ATC).
  • Use the ‘Car Park 2’. The car park is busy early in the morning; please allow yourself enough time to arrive in time for your appointment. Take your parking ticket to the Endoscopy reception desk to have your ticket stamped; this will enable you to have discounted parking.
  • Please note you need to arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment time for your pre procedure check. The length of time you will be here will vary enormously but may be anything from two to four hours or more. Please ask your admitting nurse for further information during your admission check.

What is a gastroscopy?

Illustration of a colonoscopy
Illustration of the inside of body including intestines

Your doctor has requested this procedure to help investigate and manage your medical condition.

Gastroscopy is an examination of the upper gut, which is the oesophagus (gullet), the stomach and duodenum (part of the small intestine joining the stomach). The procedure involves passing a narrow flexible instrument through the mouth, into the gullet (oesophagus) and then into the stomach and duodenum to examine the lining. This allows us to see if there are any problems such as ulcers or inflammation. The procedure can take between five and 15 minutes. If it takes longer please do not worry.

Sometimes it is helpful to take a biopsy – a sample of the lining. A small instrument called forceps passes through the gastroscope to ‘pinch’ out a tiny bit of the lining (about the size of a pinhead). This is sent to the laboratory for analysis. Most people find this completely painless.

Getting ready for the procedure

Wear loose fitting washable clothing and leave valuables at home.

On arrival to the department

Please register your arrival with the receptionist, they will ask for your pre-procedure questionnaire. Some patients may arrive after you but be seen quicker; we have seven procedure rooms all undertaking different procedures therefore patients are not seen in arrival order.

Before your procedure you will meet one of the nurses who will ask you some health questions, explain the procedure to you and ask you to sign a consent form.

Once this is completed, you will be escorted to a single sex changing area. You are able to wear your own clothes for this procedure. Your escort cannot wait with you from this point and can leave the department until you are ready to go home.

You can change your mind about having the procedure at any time.


For many people a gastroscopy is only minimally uncomfortable and sedation is not required. If you are worried about potential discomfort or would like sedation for other reasons then you can ask for it.

There are two options for this procedure:

  1. No sedation: we will spray a local anaesthetic to the back of your throat. This will make it numb so that you cannot feel the gastroscope. The numbness will last for about half an hour. The advantage is that you can leave as soon as the procedure is finished and you have talked to the endoscopist. You may resume your normal activities such as working and driving. You will be fully aware of the procedure; most patients find this acceptable.
  2. Intravenous sedation: this will be administered via a plastic tube called a cannula which is inserted into a vein, and will make you feel relaxed and sleepy but not unconscious (this is not a general anaesthetic). This option means you may not be aware of the procedure.

The disadvantages to this option are:

  • You will need to stay whilst you recover which may take up to an hour or more.
  • You will need to be escorted home; your procedure will be cancelled if you do not have an escort.
  • The injection will continue to have a mild sedative effect for up to 24 hours and may leave you unsteady on your feet for a while.

Non-urgent advice: If you choose sedation ...

... you must arrange for a responsible adult to collect you from the department and take you home. You will not be able to drive yourself. You cannot be collected in a taxi without your escort present.

Please provide reception with the contact details of your escort, they need to be available to collect you from 90 minutes after your appointment time. Escorts do not need to wait in the department.

If you are entitled to use hospital transport, an escort is not required. Please inform the department prior to your appointment if you have arranged hospital transport.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be collected from the changing room by either the endoscopist or one of the nursing team who will escort you to the procedure room. The team in the procedure room will introduce themselves and ask you some questions; this is to confirm you ready and prepared to continue with the procedure.

In the procedure room, we will ask you to remove false teeth, glasses and hearing aids in the left ear. We will make you comfortable on a couch lying on your left side. The endoscopist will give you the injection or throat spray. We will put a plastic guard into your mouth so that you do not bite and damage our instrument. We will also put a plastic ‘peg’ on your finger to monitor your pulse and oxygen levels. For your comfort and reassurance, a trained nurse will stay with you throughout.

As the gastroscope goes through your mouth you may gag slightly, this is quite normal and will not interfere with your breathing. During the procedure, we will put some air into your stomach so that we have a clear view; this may make you burp and belch a little. This is also quite normal but some people find this unpleasant. We will remove the air at the end of the procedure.

Minimal restraint may be appropriate during the procedure. However if you make it clear that you are too uncomfortable the procedure will be stopped.

Potential risks

Diagnostic gastroscopy procedures carry a very small risk (one in 10,000 cases) of haemorrhage (bleeding) or perforation (tear) of the gut following which surgery may be necessary. There may be a slight risk to teeth, crowns or dental bridgework. You should tell the nurses if you have any of these. Other rare complications include aspiration pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling or choking on vomit) and an adverse reaction to the intravenous sedative drugs.

Like all tests, this procedure will not always show up all abnormalities and, on very rare occasions, a significant abnormality may not be identified. If you have any questions about this please ask either at the time of the procedure or the person who referred you.

After the procedure

If you are given throat spray, you may go home immediately after the procedure. We advise you not to have anything to eat or drink until the numbness has worn off, which is usually about half an hour. After this, you can eat and drink normally.

If you had sedation, we will take you to a recovery area while the sedation wears off. When you are sufficiently awake, we will give you a drink before you get dressed. You can then go home; this may be up to an hour following the procedure.

We advise you not to drive, operate machinery, return to work, drink alcohol or sign legally binding documents for a 24-hour period after the procedure. We also advise you to have a responsible adult to stay with you for the next 12 hours. You can eat and drink as normal.

You may feel a little bloated and have some wind-like pains because of the air in your gut; these usually settle down quickly.

We will always do our best to respect your privacy and dignity, e.g. with the use of curtains. If you have any concerns, please speak to the department sister or charge nurse.

When will I know the result?

If you did not have sedation the endoscopist or endoscopy nurse will give you information during and immediately after the procedure. If you had sedation, we will tell you about the procedure in the recovery area when you are awake. If you would like more privacy, we will take you to a private room.

The sedation can affect your ability to remember any discussion. If you would like someone with you when you talk to the endoscopist or endoscopy nurse please inform the nurse looking after you who will arrange for you to be seen in a private room with your escort when they arrive.

The final results from biopsies or polyp removals will be given to you either by the healthcare professional who requested the procedure at a clinic appointment or by letter. These results can take several weeks to come through. You should discuss details of these results and any further treatment with that person.

After discharge

We will provide you with an information sheet on discharge which will detail who to contact if you require any assistance after the procedure.


In some cases, depending on individual factors such as the symptoms present and the condition being investigated, there may be alternatives to having a gastroscopy. These may include:

  • a barium meal or a CT scan

For more information:

Contact the endoscopy office between 0900 and 1700 on 01223 216546.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151