An endoscope is a microcamera that sits on the end of a thin, flexible tube. With it, the gastroenterologist (a professional specializing in the digestive system) can see the situation of various organs. The name of this test is endoscopy, and when your doctor orders it, it's important to know how to prepare. There are several steps you can take to relieve nervousness and become more comfortable with the procedure.
Method 1 of 3: Talking to the Doctor
Step 1. Find out about the exam
Your doctor may order an endoscopy to look for a variety of symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. If that's the case for you, find out why.
- He or she may also order an endoscopy to remove pieces of tissue that will be examined; the name of this test is biopsy.
- These tissue samples are important to make the diagnosis, which can be anemia, some types of cancer, among other possible diseases.
- Don't be concerned if they make this request, as this is a common procedure that can identify a range of illnesses, most of which are treatable.
Step 2. Know what to expect
Talk to your doctor about the details of the exam. Ask for additional information and materials on the subject, such as brochures and websites. Knowing what it's about and what to expect will make you feel much more relaxed before and during your endoscopy.
- The procedure itself is simple. It can be done in the doctor's office or in a laboratory, and in some cases you will be awake at all times.
- During the exam, you will be lying on your back or on your side and your doctor may give you a tranquilizer to help you relax.
- The endoscope will be inserted through the mouth. The doctor will run you through your esophagus to evaluate the images.
- Maybe he uses other equipment to collect the tissue samples. You will not be able to speak during the exam, but you will be able to breathe normally and make sounds as well.
Step 3. Understand the different exam types
It is important to know that there are two basic types of endoscopy. One is for the upper tract of the digestive system and the other for the lower tract; the second is called colonoscopy. Ask your doctor which of these tests you should have.
- In upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, an endoscope is inserted through the mouth, which allows the doctor to see the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
- In colonoscopy, the camera attached to the endoscope is inserted through the rectum so that the doctor can view it and also the colon and large intestine.
- These two tests are ordered to investigate symptoms and diagnose different diseases. Both are simple procedures and can be done on the same day.
Step 4. Ask questions
Some patients are surprised when the doctor orders these tests and this is perfectly normal. Ask any questions you have about this recommendation.
- Understand why you need to take these exams. Ask "What exactly makes the exam necessary in my case?"
- Ask questions about the procedure itself. Don't be shy about asking if it will hurt and how the exam will be done.
- Discuss possible side effects. Another opportune question is how often the doctor recommends and performs endoscopies.
- Take notes if you like. It may be helpful to note down the most difficult medical terms and their meanings for later reference.
Method 2 of 3: Preparing the body
Step 1. Stop taking certain medications
There are some physical preparations that must be adopted before having an endoscopy and one of them is to stop taking certain medications that can interfere with the exam or the results. As such, it is vital that the doctor is aware of all the treatments you are having.
- If you take anticoagulants, you will need to stop taking the drugs several days before the test, as they may increase the risk of bleeding during endoscopy.
- You may need to stop taking blood pressure medication for a while. Ask your doctor about your particular dosage.
- Talk about vitamin supplements. If you are taking vitamins or taking herbal treatments, it is important to tell your doctor about this.
Step 2. Fast before the exam
As stated earlier, endoscopy aims to show your digestive tract. In order for the doctor to see you properly, your body must be completely empty of solids and liquids – that is, you will have to fast first.
- Do not eat solid food for eight hours before endoscopy. Avoid chewing at this time.
- Do not drink water or other liquids for the same period. If you feel very thirsty, ask your doctor if you can only drink a little water.
- If you are a smoker, avoid smoking for six hours before the test, as tobacco can interfere with the results.
Step 3. Consider your needs
Think about your medical history as you prepare. For example, if you are asthmatic, take the pump with you. Although it cannot be used during the exam, you may need it before or after.
- Empty your bladder. You will feel more comfortable if you go to the bathroom before the exam.
- An endoscopy tends to last between 30 and 45 minutes. If you wear glasses, decide if you prefer to wear contact lenses for more comfort.
- Take off any uncomfortable jewelry. You will need to wear a gown during the exam, but wear comfortable clothes to and from the hospital.
Step 4. Follow the doctor's instructions
Obey the doctor's orders carefully, it is important to follow them to the letter regarding the fasting and treatments you are doing. Ask him to write down the recommendations so he doesn't forget anything later.
- During appointments, discuss your medical history. He should have full knowledge of any illnesses you may have had.
- Some examples are diabetes and heart disease. He should take all this information into account when ordering the exam and giving the instructions to be followed.
- Get help from a relative or friend. He will be able to ensure that you follow all recommendations.
Method 3 of 3: Feeling Ready for the Exam
Step 1. Organize your recovery
Most people do not experience major discomfort after an endoscopy. However, remember that your doctor will give you a sedative before it starts and the effects of it may take a while to wear off.
- Maybe you feel great after all, but with less attention than you seem.
- Most people lose some judgment and reflexes because of the sedative. Avoid making important decisions within 24 hours of the exam.
- Get organized to take the day off. Physically you will probably be able to work, but mentally there may be a delay in thinking. Take the day off.
Step 2. Ask someone for help
Of course, you shouldn't drive a car after being sedated, so ask a friend or relative to drive you home. This person must also stay in the hospital as an escort.
- Be honest about your needs. Say “I'm going to take a light exam, but I'm nervous. Could you come with me to reassure me?”
- Choose someone responsible. The person who will take you home after the exam must show up on time.
Step 3. Predict side effects
Although endoscopy side effects are uncommon, there are risks simply because it is a medical procedure. It is possible, for example, for the endoscope to hurt a part of the body, such as your stomach.
- Talk it over with the doctor. Ask him to describe the symptoms to watch out for.
- There are several signs to notice. If you have a fever or stomach pain 48 hours after the procedure, contact your doctor.
- Having difficulty breathing and vomiting are also possible side effects. Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Step 4. Get ready to get the results
It is possible that the doctor will have some information immediately; for example, he may find that there are no obvious signs of injury and will likely tell you so after the exam.
- Remember that you may feel disoriented from the sedative. Depending on how you feel, your doctor may prefer to wait and discuss the results when you are more alert.
- Some results take longer to complete. If the doctor has collected tissue samples, they will be sent to a laboratory.
- The exams will be ready in a few days. Ask the doctor how long you have to wait.
- Follow medical recommendations strictly. Do not eat anything at all before the exam, this can cause problems during endoscopy.
- Ask a friend or family member to join you.
- Find out about the procedure before the day, to feel more prepared and relaxed.
- You must trust your doctor and he must have the patience to answer any and all questions you have. If you don't understand something, ask him to explain it again.