An oesophagoscopy is a procedure to examine the oesophagus – also known as the gullet or food pipe. It’s usually carried out to investigate symptoms such as difficultly or pain when swallowing.

The procedure

The procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic, meaning you’ll be asleep while it happens. A long, thin metal tube with a light and camera at the end, called an oesophagoscope, will be gently passed through your mouth and into the oesophagus. Images from the camera will relay to a screen.

As well as enabling the consultant to closely examine the lining of the oesophagus, a tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken at the same time for closer analysis in the lab. The procedure may help your consultant make a diagnosis as to what’s causing your symptoms, or may help rule out serious problems such as cancer.

Completing an oesophagoscopy usually takes up to 20 minutes. After you’ve come around from the anaesthetic, you’ll be monitored for a short period but most people are able to leave after a few hours. However, you won’t be able to drive for at least 24 hours and will need somebody to accompany you home. It’s normal for your throat to feel sore – this should improve after a few days and painkillers will help.

Your consultant will talk to you about any findings or observations made during the procedure before you go home and, if required, follow-up appointments will be arranged. If a biopsy was taken, it can take a few days to get the results.

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