Endoscopy Services

An endoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor or nurse to look at areas of your gastrointestinal tract. They can look down the endoscope and see if there is any inflammation or any other abnormalities. By using the endoscope, samples (biopsies) can be taken of any abnormal looking tissues.

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy

This is more commonly called an OGD which stands for oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy. It is also known as a Gastroscopy. This test looks at the oesophagus (gullet), stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small bowel). These tests can show what is wrong if you are having difficulties with swallowing, indigestion, heartburn or nausea.

OGD colonoscopy patient information leaflet
OGD flex sigmoidscopy patient information leaflet
OGD gastroscopy patient information leaflet


To allow a clear view, the stomach must be empty. You will therefore be asked not to have anything to eat or drink for at least six hours before the test.

What will happen?

In the examination room you will be made comfortable on a couch, resting on your left side. A nurse will stay with you throughout the test. The endoscopist may spray a local anaesthetic to the back of your mouth and throat to numb the area. This will make your throat feel thick and numb but it does not affect your breathing. To keep your mouth slightly open, a plastic mouthpiece will be put gently between your teeth.

This test is normally carried out without sedation and you will have the opportunity to discuss this with the doctor or nurse before the test.

When the doctor passes the endoscope into your stomach it can be uncomfortable but should not cause you any pain, nor will it interfere with your breathing at any time. The nurse will advise you to breath normally and reassure you. It may take up to fifteen minutes to examine all the areas of the stomach carefully.

After the test

You will be supervised while you rest in the recovery unit for at least thirty minutes. You will be given a drink unless you had your throat numbed by a spray, if so, you will have to wait until the swallowing reflex is back to normal. This usually takes more than one hour. After this you can eat and drink normally.
You may have a mild sore throat for a day or two. You will be given advice before leaving the unit.

After your OGD colonoscopy patient information leaflet
After your OGD flexible sigmoidoscopy patient information leaflet
After your OGD gastroscopy patient information leaflet

When will you get the results?

In many cases the doctor/nurse will be able to tell you the results straight after the test. However, if a sample (biopsy) has been taken for examination, the results may take several days. Sometimes a biopsy is taken for a ‘clo test’ which tests for the presence of an organism in the stomach which could increase the risk of ulcers. This test result will be given to you before you leave the Unit.

Lower gastrointestinal endoscopy

A Colonoscopy looks at the whole of the large bowel and a Sigmoidoscopy looks at the lower part of the large bowel.

Colonoscopy/Sigmoidoscopy is recommended for alterations in bowel habits, blood in the stool, unexplained anaemia and as a screening test for colon cancer.

Colonoscopy patient information leaflet
Flexible sigmoidoscopy patient information leaflet


There are specific instructions which you are required to follow depending on which procedure is being carried out. A doctor or nurse will provide these instructions in advance of your appointment at the outpatient clinic. Otherwise, it may be necessary to arrange for you to attend for an assessment and to collect your bowel preparation prior to the test.

You must ensure that you have someone to collect you and stay with you following the procedure.

What will happen during the test?

You will be placed in a comfortable position on your left side and may be given medication by injection to make you sleepy and relaxed. The endoscopist will then pass the colonoscope through the anus into the rectum and advance it through the colon. You may experience some abdominal cramping and pressure from the air which is introduced into your colon. This is normal, and will pass quickly. You may also be asked to change position during the examination and will be assisted by a nurse who will be with you at all times. The examination takes 15-45 minutes.

After the test

You will be supervised while you rest in the recovery unit for up to one hour, until the main effects of any medication wear off. It is important that you don’t drive after the procedure to ensure that you get home safely, as the sedation impairs reflexes and judgment. Rest for the remainder of the day.

After your colonoscopy patient information leaflet
After your flexible sigmoidoscopy patient information leaflet

When will I know the results?

In many cases the doctor/nurse will be able to tell you the results of the test as soon as you are awake. However if a biopsy sample or polyp was removed for closer examination, these results may take up to ten days to process.

A full range of other diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy services are available in the Trust.

These include:

  • ERCP – A test that visualises bile ducts, pancreatic ducts and the gall bladder. See information on ERCP at Causeway Hospital
  • Bronchoscopy – This procedure uses a very fine scope called a bronchoscope and allows the doctor to look at breathing tubes.
  • Cystoscopy – This uses a fine scope called a cystoscope and looks at the bladder. See information on Cystoscopy 

There are four units, which provide endoscopic services in the Trust:

Endoscopy Unit, Whiteabbey Hospital. Tel: 028 9055 2464
Day Procedure Unit, Antrim Area Hospital. Tel: 028 9441 4000
Endoscopy Unit, Mid Ulster Hospital. Tel: Tel: 028 9441 4000
Day Procedure Unit, Causeway Hospital. Tel: 028 7032 7032

Page last updated:26 March 2015