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An endoscopy is a procedure where a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specialises in the digestive system and liver) uses a special camera to inspect the gastrointestinal tract. An endoscopy may be a gastroscopy (which looks inside the beginning of the gastrointestinal tract), a colonoscopy
(which looks inside the large bowel), or both. See our fact sheet
Endoscopy – colonoscopy.
A gastroscopy looks at the oesophagus, the stomach and first part of the small bowel, also known as the duodenum. This is done by using a long flexible tube that has a light and a camera on the end, known as a gastroscope.
A capsule endoscopy is another way of looking at the gastrointestinal tract, in particular the small bowel (small intestine). This involves swallowing a capsule, which is the size of a large jellybean. The capsule contains a camera, which takes photos of the inside of the
gastrointestinal tract over a period of 8–12 hours.
A child may need a gastroscopy to find the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, growth problems or diarrhoea.
As well as filming inside the body, the gastroscope is also able to take small samples (biopsies) of tissue from the stomach or bowel.
The most common use of capsule endoscopy is to look for causes of anaemia or bleeding, often after other tests such as colonoscopy and gastroscopy have been carried out and showed normal results.
Children can usually go home on the same day as the gastroscopy.
Your child may have one or more of the following side effects after the gastroscopy. These usually get better without any special treatment.
Call the hospital if your child has:
If you have any other significant concerns after the procedure, you can also contact your GP.
If your child needs to have a capsule endoscopy, you will be given a pack with all the information you need about how to prepare for the procedure and what to do afterwards.
Can a gastroscopy be done without a general anaesthetic on teenagers?
Even adults require sedation during a gastroscopy. Older children and teenagers may not need a complete general anaesthetic but will be sedated with medicine that keeps them calm and ensures they have no memory of the test.
What are the risks of having a capsule endoscopy?
It is possible (but unlikely) that the capsule can become stuck if there is an unexpected narrowing of the bowel. This will lead to pain and vomiting. If your child experiences these symptoms, it's important you take them to the local hospital emergency department.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Gastroenterology department and Day Surgery Centre. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed August 2018.
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