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When Your Child Needs an Upper Endoscopy

An upper endoscopy is a test that shows the inside of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This includes the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). The doctor can perform a biopsy (take tissue samples), check for problems, or remove objects. The test normally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Outline of child with head turned to side showing endoscope inserted into mouth, esophagus, stomach, and ending in duodenum (first part of small intestine).
An endoscope gives the doctor an inside view of the upper GI tract.

Before the Test

  • Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink for at least 4 to 6 hours before the test, or as instructed by the medical staff. 

  • Follow all other instructions given by the doctor.

 

Let the Doctor Know

For your child’s safety, let the doctor know if your child:

  • Is allergic to any medication, sedative, or anesthesia.

  • Is taking any medications, especially aspirin.

  • Has heart or lung problems.

During the Test

An upper endoscopy is performed by a doctor in an office, testing center, or hospital:

  • You can usually stay with your child in the testing room until your child falls asleep.

  • Your child lies on an exam table.

  • Your child is given a pain reliever and a sedative (medication that makes your child relax or sleep). This is done through an intravenous (IV) line. Or, your child is given anesthesia (medication that makes your child sleep) by facemask or IV. A trained nurse or anesthesiologist helps with this process and also monitors your child. Special equipment is used to check your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.

  • Your child’s throat is numbed with a spray or gargle.

  • A bite block is placed in your child’s mouth. This prevents your child from biting down on the endoscope.

  • The endoscope is guided down your child’s throat. This is a long, flexible tube with a light and a camera at the end. It doesn’t affect your child’s breathing.

  • Air is put through the endoscope to expand your child’s stomach and upper GI tract. Water may also be used.

  • Images of your child’s stomach and upper GI tract are viewed on a screen as the endoscope advances.

  • The doctor may take tissue samples or perform procedures, as needed. 

After the Test

  • Your child is taken to a recovery room. It may take 1 to 2 hours for the medications to wear off.

  • Unless told not to, your child can return to his or her normal routine and diet right away.

  • The doctor may discuss early results with you after the test. You’re given complete results when they’re ready.

Helping Your Child Prepare

You can help your child by preparing him or her in advance. How you do this depends on your child’s need:

  • Explain that the doctor is testing the upper GI tract. Use brief and simple terms to describe the test. Younger children have shorter attention spans, so do this shortly before the test. Older children can be given more time to understand the test in advance. 

  • As best you can, describe how the test will feel. An IV is inserted into the arm to give medications. This may cause a brief sting. Your child won’t feel anything once the medications take effect.

  • Allow your child to ask questions.

  • Use play when helpful. This can involve role-playing with a child’s favorite toy or object. It may help older children to see pictures of what happens during the test. 

 

Call the Doctor 

Contact your doctor right away if your child:

  • Coughs up a large amount of blood right after the test

  • Has a sore throat that doesn’t go away

  • Has chest pain that doesn’t go away

  • Has abdominal pain that doesn’t go away

  • Has problems swallowing

  • Has a fever over 100.4°F (38°C).

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 1/9/2014
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.