Gastroscopy 

  • Overview

Introduction 

Endoscopy

Find out what an endoscopy procedure is, what happens and how you can prepare yourself for it.

Media last reviewed: 16/03/2013

Next review due: 16/03/2015

Common gut problems

Digestive complaints such as constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn and bloating are incredibly common but usually treatable

A gastroscopy is a medical procedure where a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is used to look inside the stomach.

The procedure is also sometimes referred to as an upper endoscopy. 

An endoscope has a light and a camera at one end. The camera sends images of the inside of your body to a television monitor.

A gastroscopy is a very common procedure, with more than 600,000 carried out by the NHS in England each year.

This topic focuses on gastroscopies that are used to examine and/or treat conditions affecting the upper section of the digestive system, such as the stomach and gullet.

Read more about other types of endoscopy.

When a gastroscopy is needed 

A gastroscopy may be recommended if you have symptoms that suggest a stomach problem. This could be difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or persistent abdominal pain. The procedure can be used to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms.

A gastroscopy can also be used to treat various gut-related problems. Tiny tools can be passed down the endoscope to:

  • repair bleeding ulcers and veins
  • widen a blocked oesophagus (the tube through which food passes to the stomach)
  • provide nutrition if you're unable to eat food in the normal way
  • remove non-cancerous growths (polyps) or early-stage cancerous tumours

Read more about why a gastroscopy may be necessary.

The procedure

A gastroscopy can take about 15 minutes, depending on why it's being used.

It's usually carried out as an outpatient procedure, which means that you won't have to spend the night in hospital.

The procedure is often carried out under sedation. You won't be asleep but you'll be very drowsy and have little awareness about what's happening. Alternatively, your throat can be numbed with a local anaesthetic spray.

The doctor carrying out the procedure will place the endoscope in the back of your mouth and ask you to swallow the first part of the tube. It will then be guided down your oesophagus and into your stomach.

Read more about how a gastroscopy is performed.

Risks

A gastroscopy is a very safe procedure and serious complications, such internal bleeding, are rare, occurring in less than 1 in 1,000 cases.

Read more about the possible risks associated with a gastroscopy.

Page last reviewed: 12/08/2013

Next review due: 12/08/2015

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Comments

The 32 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

bagpuss255 said on 12 September 2014

I had this procedure yesterday and wanted to write a note about it as reading everyone else's comments was useful to me. I hate needles and was worried about being out of control so did not want sedation. This was despite being a very nervous patient (the doctor even said are you sure when he saw how worked up I was). Everyone's experiences are different but I had no problems at all. I made sure they sprayed me a lot of times and that my throat was really numb and asked the doctor not to start until I gave him the signal so I felt I was ready. They were very kind as I was really anxious. I really had been making a fuss about nothing...no feeling like I could not breathe, no gagging, no pain...it was a slightly odd feeling but really nothing to worry about at all. Whole thing was over very quickly and much much better than I expected. Please do not get yourself unnecessarily worked up about this. I am a massive wimp and if I can do this and anyone can. I would not hesitate to do this again if I needed it. In my case absolutely no need for sedation. Fabulous staff and a good experience.

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Grahm25 said on 08 September 2014

I had an OGD last week and having read other comments decided to have sedation. I remember the drug being administered and then being given the mouthpiece, yet I don't really remember the procedure itself. Personally I experienced no stress or discomfort and would not be at all apprehensive if ever I had to have the procedure again. I know I can only speak from my own experience but my advice would be to have the sedation and though easier said than done, try not to worry too much.

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trisia said on 28 August 2014

I had mine yesterday. I was so nervousness after reading rather previous reports I was almost in tears. My husband was equally worried. Please listen to your GP and the nurses.
I had a throat spray and sedation. The last thing I remember was having a small teeth guard put in my mouth. I looked up and wondered when they were going to start only to find it was all over.
Please go into this procedure with an open mind.
I am 81 so no spring chicken. Please don't hesitate

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Lucyolivercharlie said on 19 August 2014

I had mine done yesterday..... I was so nervous! Pulse rate 95. Had sedation and throat spray. I was still awake didn't feel drowsy but I was calm. The procedure was uncomfortable but absolutely nothing to worry about. Would not hesitate in doing it again if it was needed. Don't read comments on net!! Listen to nurses and doctor and it's a sinch! X thanks to redditch hospital... Amazing x

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Camillaand1 said on 14 August 2014

I had my Gastroscopy (and Colonoscopy) yesterday. I had been terrified, but it was absolutely fine.

I talked to the doctor about my anxieties and he recommended a sedative, which I had, and it worked really well I don't remember much about it, and afterwards I walked to the recovery room where I enjoyed a lovely cuppa and some custard creams.

My advice is to tell the doctor that you're nervous, take the sedation and then get it over with...the staff at St Nicholas Endoscopy unit in Norfolk were wonderful...what a relief.

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User893394 said on 05 August 2014

Quick warning to anyone with severe anxiety. I spoke to the team when I arranged my endoscopy and advised I had severe chronic anxiety along with a severe fear of vomiting. I was sent a letter detailing extra sedation had been arranged for me which seemed ok. When I got to the hospital in Essex I had a panic attack and nurses rushed at me and kept shouting at me to calm down. When I eventually did they told me how horrible the procedure would be over and over but it was "mind over matter" and I'd just have to cope. Not what I needed to hear or was capable of with the anxiety problems I had that they knew about. Also not what I expected to be told as other peoples comments the procedure is really not that bad. I was taken though to the procedure room where the woman trying to fit my cannula get very ratty with me as she couldn't find a vein which was something I could not exactly help! After 5 attempts she fitted one by which point I was crying and shaking all over from the stress of the whole thing. Only for the surgeon walk in tell me I was too anxious and that the procedure would be dangerous because I 'wouldn't calm down' and that he couldn't sedate me further as I already had sedatives in my body. He then tried to get me to sign the procedure form which I couldn't read through my tears and he then took the form off me and left the room saying we'll just arrange a barium meal instead and I was turfed out.
I had check over and over that the sedative I would need (just Valium) would be acceptable to be reassured over and over it would be fine and the procedure would go ahead only to be sent home at the least minute. I am distraught that my mental health was completely ignored and I stress to anyone with similar issues to make sure you are heard ahead of time!

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daaaanielle said on 11 July 2014

Before I went for this procedure, I spoke to many people that'd had it, and was told it was horrific and I must get sedated. Being very young and a massive worrier, I was petrified going to the hospital today. The staff were so lovely and kept me so calm, and I didn't need any sedation whatsoever. The procedure was so much easier and quicker than I expected! Obviously everyone's different, but to anyone who's going for one, don't worry about it all, apart from being slightly uncomfortable and strange, if I can do it then you definitely can too!

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joannaford61 said on 16 June 2014

I wish my procedure was like that of 'stretchy19'. The procedure was awful. I gagged the whole time. Djr88 says that 'As the scope goes in,you swallow and then can't feel anymore' . How I wish that that had been how it was for me. It was painful,albeit for a short time & frightening especially since I knew what had gone down,would have to come back up! I wasn't more worried about the procedure than anyone else,but now I'm phobic. The nurses were excellent at reassuring me the whole time,but I am never going to go through that again. I had had sedation too!

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stretchy19 said on 17 March 2014

I had a gastroscopy today to assess if I am a coeliac I am very nervous about the results. All these horror story's really baffle me because it is one of the easiest procedures I have ever been through, I was sedated and all I remember is the horrible tasting spray and the IV and the rest was blurred, it didn't hurt, I do have a mild sore throat now, but honestly it really isn't worth worrying about, because its such a easy quick and painless procedure.

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ellieclarke said on 14 March 2014

I had a gastroscopy yesterday, and honestly, reading the positive comments absolutely baffles me.
The reason for the procedure was because my food pipe completely closed up about a month ago, so they wanted to find a cause. I wish I had never attended, as things have become a whole lot worse. I am now signed off of work, and haven't eaten for 30 hours.
As soon as the camera entered my throat, I started to vomit continually. I hadn't eaten for 7 hours, so there was a lot of saliva, but the gagging was just unbearable. Then when they inserted the camera into my oesophagus, I felt as though I was being stabbed in the back. I was crying, shouting, and begging them to stop.
After the procedure, I complained of severe back and chest pains. The nurses told me it was "just wind". I tried burping myself, walking up and down… no hope. The nurses then told me I could leave; however, on my way home I started to cough up blood, all over my windscreen.
As soon as I got home, I rung an ambulance and was rushed straight back into the hospital. They feared that something had been perforated. They put me on a drip (which was inserted incorrectly, therefore they took it out). They tried giving me pain relief orally, which resulted in me vomiting up huge amounts of blood. Eventually, they put me on a drip and injected me with fluids, pain relief and anti-sickness. I was discharged, still in huge amounts of pain.
The result? Oesophageal ulcers. The camera has irritated the ulcers, and I am still in huge amounts of pain. I cannot eat, cannot sleep. Overall, it was the worst experience of my life, and I almost wish I'd never gone. Has anyone else had this experience? I have been left scarred for life.

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Smartie2 said on 10 March 2014

I have recently had a gastroscopy and I would say to anyone worried about having one - don't be!
It really wasn't that bad - and I was quite anxious beforehand, never having had any sort of medical procedure before.
You stay dressed so no hospital gowns or awkward changing moments.
I had the sedative and I'm sure this helped. Recovery afterwards was very quick and uneventful.
While a bit uncomfortable there is no pain and it is over very quickly. I was a bit worried about the "mouthpiece" with visions of huge devices clamping my mouth open! In fact it was just a very small and manageable plastic tube you hold with your teeth - no big deal at all.
I had biopsies taken during the procedure and felt no pain or discomfort due to this.
Care and encouragement from the medical staff was fantastic and while obviously routine to them, they are very aware that the process can be quite intimidating for the patient.
Overall, as I say, nothing to worry about.

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djr88 said on 02 March 2014

I had my Gastroscopy on Friday and I must admit I was not looking forward to it, but first of all I will say go for the throat spray , its really not worth sedation for the couple of minutes you in there , the banana tasting spray is unpleasant but bearable, the NHS nurses were really good and talked you through it as one nurse just tells you to take deep breaths.As the scope goes in you swallow and thats it , you can't feel it after that. You do belch as the air is put in your stomach but its just like something you would do normally anyway .
For someone who was terrified I would'nt hesitate in having it done again tomorow it really is'nt that bad, Just remember 'Deep slow breaths'
Hope this help's.

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alexwozniak said on 11 February 2014

I had gastroscopy and it is fine and bearable. Just with spray, it's unpleasant but absolutely no need to worry. I read many comments here and think it really depending on your attitude. Trust people, think positive and believe it will be okay!

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Emma4163 said on 22 December 2013

Had mine done today. I chose both sedation and spray. Glad i did. It wasnt very pleasant at all. No pain, just wretched the whole way through. Have to say the nurses and doctor were extremely reassuring and caring. Bit of a sore throat now and groggy from the sedation but i feel ill get over the whole experience pretty quickly

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Perth patient said on 19 December 2013

I am 32. I have recently had a colonoscopy with sedation and, separately, a gastroscopy with throat spray only. I would advise taking the sedation for either procedure. It's bearable and does only take 5 minutes but it certainly isn't pleasant so unless you are struggling with the 24hr driving restriction or to get someone to collect you I would go with sedation. Don't feel pressured into agreeing to throat spray only - sedation is no big deal & would make the procedure a lot more comfortable.

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95sophie said on 30 October 2013

Yesterday I had a gastroscopy in Peterborough. I am an 18 year old girl, not your usual gastroscopy patient.
I opted to go without sedation.
The procedure I had involved the endoscope entering through my nose.
This meant having some local anesthetic sprayed up my nose which I had to sniff and swallow.
While this procedure was very unpleasant it was bearable and I personally feel that sedation is not needed.
My nurse was lovely holding my hand the whole way through as well as checking that I was coping with the procedure.
The worst part for me was trying to swallow as you can feel the tube whilst doing so.
I would not like to have this procedure done again however recommend that it is worth doing if you would like answers.

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kay81 said on 15 October 2013

sorry 9 weeks post op

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kay81 said on 15 October 2013

Due for an OGD/stent removal tomorrow 9 post gallbladder removal in which a stent was left in the bile duct unsure why,was told this had to be removed at 6 weeks post op, i had to chase up the appointment and im now very nervous as i have no idea what to expect.

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domino1 said on 01 October 2013

Decided to try without sedation but leave that option open.

Went totally fine. Nurses and endoscopist all introduced themselves when I went in which was really appreciated.

Took my ipod in there to have some nice music to listen to which helped.

I gagged and coughed a bit, but I wasn't ever in great discomfort. Certainly no pain. For me, it was moderately unpleasant, but I was completely fine afterwards.

Visited Endoscopy unit at St Marks Hospital, Northwick Park. Found them a great team.

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Northumberland1 said on 29 September 2013

I dont normally leave comments but felt i had to as i want other people to know of my experience. Please do not listen to the horror stories, I did and was so nervous about this that I worried for weeks. I had this procedure on 27th September at Hexham general hospital and the staff we all lovely and explained the procedure in great detail. I had already decided to have sedation but was told about both the throat spray or sedation in great detail and was told I could have both but decided against the throat spray as it can feel like you have something stuck in the throat. The nurse put a mouth guard in my mouth and had to lay on my left side, I listened carefully to what I was told and I can honestly say I did not feel a thing I didn't wretch once and couldn't feel the camera once inside, I fully believe that this was due to the sedation which made me so calm I remember being awake but so chilled out that when they had finished I thought they hadn't even begun! I went into recovery and had a cup of coffee and was on my way within an hour of arriving even after sedation and was fine if not a little light headed, my husband waited for me as you do need someone to drive you home if you opt for sedation. The procedure itself only took minutes and I was even given pictures of my problem which is a Hiatus Hernia. I had a bit of a sore throat for the Rest of the day and the following day but today its totally gone. Overall would really not worry if I had to have it again it really is one of those things that you think are worse than they really are.

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Madisonjay said on 25 September 2013

I had a gastroscopy on 24th September at Dorchester county hospital, I was very nervous before I got to the hospital, however once I was there the staff were so friendly and reassuring that I felt much better. I had decided to have sedation after reading and listening to other peoples experiences. The procedure was explained fully to me in a very professional & reassuring way, I opted to have the throat spray which completely numbs the throat, I had very caring reassuring staff in the room with me, the whole procedure took just 3-5 minutes it was painless and only a little uncomfortable at times. I was given the report complete with photo of my insides straight away, & was fine to go home straight away with no after effects. If I had know what a simple procedure this was & hadn't listened to horror stories I could have saved myself weeks of worry. Please do not listen to any bad stories, just relax & listen to the staff it really doesn't take any time at all & gives you peace of mind. I hope someone will find my experience helpful.

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P2010 said on 24 September 2013

I had a gastroscopy on 20th September 2013 at Lewisham Hospital.
Everything was fully explained beforehand and I was offered either sedation or throat spray. I chose throat spray.
The spray tastes of bananas and soon numbs the back of the throat and tongue. I gagged a couple of times as the tube went down but other than that I felt no pain or discomfort and couldn't feel the tube inside me.
The whole procedure took about 5 minutes and I suffered no after effects such as sore throat or anything.
All the staff were helpful, friendly and professional and went out of their way to explain the procedure. The doctor immediately wrote their report and gave me a copy complete with colour pictures of my insides.
Absolutely nothing to worry about - not as bad as a trip to the dentist.

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KSheridan said on 30 July 2013

I had my test a couple of weeks ago. I was very nervous, and wasnt offered any sedative as I was told it isnt routine to do that anymore. However the nurses and doctor were lovely and did their best to reassure me, and keep me calm and comfortable during the procedure. It was uncomfortable, but only in the sense that I was constantly retching. It was all over in 4 minutes. All in all I wouldnt want to have it again in a hurry, but it is over quickly! If your really nervous push for sedation, i dont think i would have been half as nervous if I had. I have a blog at www.mylifewithibs.com where I have documented my experience if you wish to read more about the procedure.

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Anonymous said on 15 July 2013

I'm due for a gastroscopy examination very soon for a suspected ulcer. The problem is that I suffer from serious angina; I have an average of three attacks per day. I've had two heart attacks and a minimally-effective CABG operation a few years ago.

My nightmare is having an attack while the endoscopy procedure is happening. How could I alert the nursing staff / endoscopist when I've got his Box Brownie and scalpel set shoved down my throat and I'm sedated and off with the fairies. And what are the risks of having a heart attack? I've raised these questions with the endoscopy help desk (what a joke) but the answer was just a fob off.

I'm thinking of cancelling the whole thing.

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Gimmeshelter said on 19 June 2013

I had my gastroscopy this morning - 9.50. Opted for sedation and had the pros and cons of both sedation and throat spray explained with by the nurse. Wasn;t hurried into making any decsions and opted for sedation. She did say I couldn;t have both. She said you will wretch with both and I did, but it wasn't bad. YOur stomach is so empty that it isn;t vomiting as such just dry wretching. The sedative didn;t put me to sleep but must have worked as it felt like I was having it done for about 10 seconds but was told after that is was 3 minutes. I wasn;t sleepy after either so got toast and tea and was on my way with my wife in 30 mins after the procedure.

I had worried for weeks about it, and read all sorts of horro stories, but my advice is go for sedation and expect to wretch...it's kind of weird in that you aren't bothered. This is coming from someone with a vomit phobia so trust me. The nurses and doctors were really good and the doctor worked very quickly and efficiently. Breathing isn;t a problem as the tube does not restrict your wind pipe so you can still breath through your mouth and /or nose.

It is uncomfortable and I can;t comment if the throat spray is better than sedation but my experience was not that bad and it is all over so quick that it is not worth worrying about. The trick is to relax (sedative helps with this) and breath.

Got my results at the end - Hiatus Hernia and gastritis which was a relief. I wouldn;t worry if I had to have it done again and would opt for sedation again. I don;t know why some people are saying oyu are out of it for the rest of the day. I was fine straight after just a bit woozey. Hope this helps.

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psychstu said on 03 June 2013

I've had 2 endoscopies for a stomach ulcer in the past month & am due another this week. The procedure is quick, over in about 10 mins. The spray to numb your throat is just like something you'd expect at the dentist, tastes unpleasant but the feeling is just strange, nothing to panic about. I had sedation the second time but this had no affect due to a faulty cannula in my arm, so both times I was fully aware of what was happening. Due to it being over so quickly I'd recommend just the throat spray so you can get on with your day and it's really not that bad to need sedation for it, its unpleasant but I'm sure anyone could handle it. A mouth guard is inserted between your teeth to keep your mouth open & your lay on your side, they put padding under your face to catch any saliva. The camera is as wide as a little finger & flashes at the end. The initial swallowing is no effort but this procedure is very uncomfortable as you can feel the tube throughout the whole passage it makes both down & back & you can feel it being pulled back, so despite the procedure not being too bad don't be fooled by people saying the worst bit is over once you swallow the camera. However, rather than panicking, I found the procedure easier to handle when I focused on a point on the wall & concentrated on my breathing. Rather than it feeling like a gagging sensation as suggested, I felt it feels more like you want to be sick & you do belch at a certain point which can't be helped. You can't feel the biopsies being taken at all. The staff were all very friendly & informative and the nurse held my hand, reassuring me throughout both my first two. During the first procedure, the doctor found my ulcer had began to heal but thought my stomach ulcer had stopped bleeding but must have still been trickling a bit as I had a second hematemsis. I was shown a picture of my stomach ulcer after my second procedure.

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libby55 said on 28 January 2013

Today I had a gastroscopy at West Suffolk Hospital. I was nervous but opted just for the throat spray as I needed to go straight back to work. All the staff were lovely . Very reassuring - and there were 4 people in attendance. Holding my hand , encouraging me and giving me a rundown on what was happening all the time. The spray tasted a bit like nasty bananas but hey - no big deal. There was no pain altho it was a bit uncomfortable. Briefly gagging initially and lots of belching throughout due to the air that is pumped in to the stomach. But it was over and done in five minutes and I was up and off back to work. I would say, dont worry about it. Its really not bad at all. Thanks to all the staff who were really kind.

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Mufters said on 24 January 2013

I have had both gastroscopy and colonoscopy. I was very nervous for both. I tried to follow the doctors instructions and relax and managed both without sedation. However the gastroscopy, whilst not painful, was very uncomfortable due to the gagging reflex and I had to focus hard on my breathing to try to blot it out. However, the colonoscopy, in my opinion, was a piece of cake and it would not worry me to have to undergo it again. Hope this helps to reassure someone going through it.

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6b7o2w4z said on 04 January 2013

My worst fears were confirmed yesterday when I had a combined Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy.I was supposed to have a throat spray with sedation and painkilling injection for the Gastroscopy and sedation and a painkilling injection for the Colonoscopy.After reminding the doctor--who had not greeted me when I came into the room,but was busy on the phone --that I was supposed to have a throat spray too when he over to me, he then gave me minuscule 2 sprays which did nothing to the back of my throat and he gave all the injections in one go,I fell asleep briefly only to wake in pain when the scope was pressing against the left side of my throat and I was gagging from then on until the job was done.The other procedure was also extremely painful and I was awake for all of that,I have a polyp in the colon which I saw on the screen but the doctor lost it before he could excise it so I have to have another procedure in 6 months time---GREAT.I do not feel I was treated in a compassionate way and will never have another Gastroscopy.What is the point in sorting out a patients choices and wishes before hand when it's completely ignored by the Endoscopist . The nursing staff were all very nice I hasten to say and tried to help me when in pain.

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JonnyPop said on 19 December 2012

I had a gastroscopy performed recently and it really was nothing to worry about. Beforehand, I was really dreading the procedure - the idea of having a tube shoved down my throat was almost too much to bear.

However, thanks to opting for the general anesthetic (something I highly recommend for those who hold a similar fear to myself), the entire ordeal was completely pain free (with the exception of some mild stomach cramping a few hours later). I literally remember nothing apart from the obligatory small talk with the doctor as the drugs kicked in and knocked me out. I woke up feeling really drowsy and disorientated yet surprisingly euphoric.

Knowing that I don't have to be conscious for the procedure, I'd happily have another gastroscopy performed should I ever require one.

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sonseyface said on 18 July 2012

I have just had my Gastroscopy today 18 July 2012 and I was terrified at the thought of having it done. I have to say that I had nothing to worry about. The worst part of the whole procedure was the numbing throat spray. They do three sprays on the tongue then ask you to swallow (it tastes like fish and bannana to me), then they repeat it three times. The sensation of not being able to swallow is quite scary, until you remember that you can still breathe through the nose without any problems. I had sedation, so I actually remember being awake but remember nothing. I would have no fear about having this done again....... if I really had to!

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Steve1966 said on 10 July 2012

I had a Gastroscopy at The Great Western on Monday 9th July 2012. All I want to say to people reading this is that this procedure is nothing at all to fear. I had the spray and that was supposed to taste like banana but I am sure it was battery acid. The whole procedure took less than ten minutes. You do gag a little but I never felt as though I was going to choke or be sick. I cannot commend the team at The Great Western in Swindon highly enough. They can tell you are nervous and they do their utmost to put you at ease. I have read horror stories about this procedure on other sites but believe me, there is nothing at all to it.

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