Having an endoscopy tomorrow, pretty anxious. What is it really like?
October 20, 2022 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I’ll be under sedation and have someone to drop off / pick me up / watch me for the day. But I’m pretty scared of what people describe as being totally zonked or out of it afterward. What is the experience actually like?

When people say they can’t remember the entire day of, for instance, that gives me a lot of anxiety. I’m sensitive to a lot of medications and procedures (probably in part due to anxiety) and afraid I’ll be loopy for days. Also worried about the side effects people share— feeling bloated and full of air afterward, for instance. How bad is it? And I’m afraid of hanging out in the hospital for a couple hours afterward “coming down”… will I just be hanging around in a chair?

Etc., etc. I do have health anxiety and I want to know to expect from people who have gone through it in normal human language, instead of medical disclaimer language. Also want to tell my partner, who will be watching me, what to expect. I’m going to make sure I have a little nest at home to crash for at least the night afterward, if anything makes for something good to have on hand would be good to know.

I’ve been putting this off for a couple years and finally going through with it… trying to know what to expect I guess.

Also, did you eat right away after getting out, or was it uncomfortable? How bad was the sore throat, nausea, etc.? Ugh!
posted by stoneandstar to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Best answer: I don't remember feeling bloated or full of air, but I did have a stiff neck and some jaw popping because the doc let me spend the whole procedure with my head very firmly to the side. Personally, when I say I can't remember the day of, it's not because I was, for instance, wailing in agony or anything, just because anesthesia blurs reality and time. I believe I waited in a bed for a short time after coming out.

I wouldn't even rate this in the top twenty worst medical procedures I've been through. Getting an IV from a bad IV tech is worse.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 2:51 PM on October 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Mine was some time ago, but as I recall: mild sore throat, a little gas. I don't think I was nauseated afterwards, but I also wasn't terribly hungry. Re: the sedation: reactions seem to vary. I woke up shortly after, a little woozy, nothing scary. Where you'll recover probably depends on the facility where you're having the reaction, but I don't think I was there for 2+ hours. It was more like the setup you get when you get woozy donating blood--recliner, apple juice.
posted by praemunire at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have plenty of health anxiety too, and I've had several endoscopies, and they were absolutely nothing. In the sense of, they put me out, and then I woke up, sleepy. A little while later, I wasn't sleepy anymore. I don't remember any intestinal/stomach effects at all. They tell you, usually, that you need somebody to pick you up afterward, but my gastroenterologist is quite casual about these things, so I didn't enlist anyone. I thought I'd take a taxi home, but when I went outside, I felt fine, and took the subway home (this was in the middle of Manhattan, NYC). I think I was told I could eat anytime I wanted, and I was probably starving and ate when I got home.

No sore throat. No nausea. No gas. No nothing.
I think my doctor said the entire thing when you're under takes 5 minutes or something.

So, everyone's mileage may vary. I'm 72 years old, probably have had about 4 of these in the last 20 years.
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:55 PM on October 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This was me. Under local anaesthetic. I've had it a fm couple of times and I don't remember if this example was the colonoscopy or the endoscopy.

Both times, I don't remember the procedure at all, I first remember waking up in my hospital bed about an hour later and feeling sleepy. Eventually the nurse came and checked on me, told me I could get dressed and showed me to a chair in the hall. I sat feeling pleasantly sleepy but a little more awake. My husband came to pick me up, checked in with the nurse to let them know he had me, and we walked together to the car.

I don't remember much from the walk to the car or the beginning of the trip. As described in the link, by the time we got to lunch I was pretty much back to normal. I didn't feel groggy or out of it after that.

I got no pain from either procedure. I did have a very slight sore throat from the endoscopy only for the rest of the day as I recall. I didn't have any bloating.

Hope hearing about my experience helps.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 2:55 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: Oh, also ate shortly afterwards with no problem. In fact the nurse gave me some juice and a cookie when I woke up, due to the fasting I had to do prior.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 2:59 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: I've had quite a few endoscopies, both in a hospital and in a gastro center, so here is my experience.

I get rolled into the room for the procedure, the nurse makes some silly joke, then 3-2-1 next thing I know I'm waking up in the recovery area in the same bed. From then on I'm fully aware and don't forget any of what happens. The extra air results in a couple of hiccups during recovery and then I'm fine. They'll keep me in the recovery area around 15 minutes before letting me go home with my partner.

The whole thing from being called back to going home takes less than an hour in my gastro's office and a bit longer in the hospital. By the time I get home I want to sleep for a couple of hours and feel a little lower energy the rest of the day, but mostly fine and have never felt zonked or out of it.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:00 PM on October 20, 2022

Sorry, just realized that my link doesn't go to the right part of the page. It's Superilla's comment.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 3:01 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: And I’m afraid of hanging out in the hospital for a couple hours afterward “coming down”… will I just be hanging around in a chair?
Did they tell you have to stay there? Most people get to leave after they wake up and their ride comes to get them. I was put in a recovery room in a bed until I woke up and the doctor talked to me. Then my husband took me home.
posted by soelo at 3:34 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: I've had one endoscopy and some other procedures I could compare it to (appendectomy, etc.). I remember being pleasantly sleepy too. I know I was pretty fully functional, but then the next day, most of my memory of the day was pretty wiped. I guess that's a contradictory thing to say, but that's what I recall. I think I did take a nap. I let my partner make me lunch and it was delicious.
posted by purple_bird at 3:37 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: I drove my spouse home from an upper endocscopy yesterday and he was a little tired and brain-foggy (taking a few extra seconds to form a sentence) but otherwise mentally OK, and he's back to baseline mental capacity today.
posted by matildaben at 4:24 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: It was absolutely nothing. Woke up a little groggy, but that cleared fast. Stopped for food on the way home, and had no problem eating.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:35 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: Others have answered well but just to add to the chorus - it was nothing. Personally I find the sensation of waking after anesthesia quite pleasant - like waking up slow after a satisfying nap. I woke up easily, and after a few minutes talking to the doc, got dressed, my room mate picked me up, and I went home. I went about the rest of my day fine, mostly hung out watching TV and playing video games. Maybe went to bed a little early, but that was it.
posted by invincible summer at 4:49 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: If you are one of the people who has uncomfy gas bloat, HEAT works wonders. No one told me until I had gone through a couple of them, and that made the only bit of discomfort magically evaporate. Hot pad or heated blanket over your shoulders. Very few people even need that or have that discomfort, but just in case. I am someone who gets pretty groggy and out of it from the anesthesia, but it’s not an unpleasant thing. I just watch a fluff movie and pass in and out of sleep, which I always need anyway because of not sleeping well the night before. It’s like easily being able to take a nap when I need it. I’m having one on Monday! We’ll be fine.
posted by Bottlecap at 5:13 PM on October 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 to all those saying "no big deal"

However, my endoscopy had listed "versed, fentanyl" as the drugs they were going to use. I've had those before, and thought "OK".

Everything was fine, until the drive home, when I became very nauseated. Made it home, didn't puke, and after having some food/fluids, was OK in a few hours.

Later, I read my medical records, and it said "Versed + Demerol". I've never had Demerol before, and I suspect that was related. I emailed my doc to tell them this and they replied " Demerol is known to cause more nausea. I will leave note in the chart. You can also mention at future procedures we would know to use Fentanyl. "

No idea why they would use F vs D, but if you have prior history with opiods, it's relevant.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:28 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: Everybody’s body is slightly different, so it’s entirely possible that your experience may be different from someone else’s. I felt a great sense of euphoria both as the drugs were taking effect and as I was coming out of them. The only discomfort I experienced was: a slight gagging sensation when they sprayed my throat before the drugs completely took effect, a wee bit of a sore throat afterward, and a mild feeling of dehydration that was gone by the end of the day. I didn’t even have any abdominal pain from the polyp removal they ended up doing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:00 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: Your experience will depend on how your body responds to whatever drugs the hospital chooses to give you and what they find with the scope. My own experience varied between procedures, and I would have been grateful to have someone caring for me after the second one when the first was no big deal.

Versed (midazolam) is an amnestic, and the elimination half-life is anywhere from 2 to 6 hours. You may suddenly come to out of a blackout, remembering nothing since biting down on the bit. Or you may remember pieces of the procedure. My notes from my first procedure say 71% of adult endoscopy patients had no recall of the introduction of the endoscope and 82% had no recall of its withdrawal. Waking quickly and refreshed as if from the perfect nap sounds like propofol, which the hospital/doctor may prefer to administer if an anesthesiologist is available. I received the combination of midazolam + fentanyl, and each time noted being woozy and malcoordinated for hours thereafter.

A history of acid reflux may have produced an esophageal stenosis which would have to be dilated to pass the scope into the stomach. This would increase the duration of the procedure and the potential soreness thereafter. My notes after my second procedure mention a lot of menthol drops and odynophagia (painful swallowing) that limited me to soft food for 36 hours. Have comfort foods available that you will want to eat even if something like a cookie is unpleasant to force down.

On reflection, if you are worried about forgetting parts of the day other than the procedure itself, journalling will let you recall them later despite any short-term benzo haze and will help you be more prepared if you eventually have to go through this again.

Best of luck. Gastritis sucks. Hope you can get a concrete diagnosis and find some relief.
posted by backwoods at 9:36 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: It's probably good to get someone to accompany you anyway. I escorted a relative and they were exceedingly cheerful after the procedure and have a very foggy recall of the next couple of hours, but they've had this amnesiac reaction to anaesthesia before - after being fully put under, they generally don't recall the next 24 hours after waking.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:46 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: My memory was kind of patchy. I didn't remember the procedure itself at all. There was just sort of a blank between the doctor talking to me at the beginning of the procedure and me being in the recovery room afterwards. I do remember the doctor coming and telling me the results, but I have no memory of putting on my jacket and shoes afterwards. It was a little weird to have missing memories but (perhaps because of the the drugs), I just kind of shrugged and moved on.

I think I had a mildly sore throat but that went away pretty quickly. It turned out that my anxiety about the test / the results were way worse than the experience of the test itself. I hope it goes well for you too.
posted by creepygirl at 11:52 PM on October 20, 2022

Best answer: I've had a few. Here's what usually happens:
- I check in at the reception area and then sit in the waiting room until I'm called to fill out some forms, and then to get changed into a hospital gown, robe, and paper booties. Sometimes I'm given a big plastic bag to put my stuff in (which I carry around with me) and sometimes I am given a locker. When I get a locker I lock my clothes and shoes up, but still keep my purse with me. They keep your stuff with you, usually at the bottom of your bed.
- After I get changed, I typically am directed to wait in another, more private, waiting room to be called to have an IV inserted. It just kind of hangs there until I'm ready for the procedure, then they hook it up to something.
- When I'm called for my turn I'm instructed to lie down in dimly lit, quiet room. This is generally when they explain what's going to happen, and when I can ask questions about the procedure or express any anxiety, but sometimes that conversation happens beforehand.
- A twilight sedative is hooked up to my IV and it puts me out almost immediately.
- I wake up in a recovery room with other patients. Sometimes a nurse is looking in on everyone and tells you when you can sit up and go, and sometimes no medical staff are around and you just get yourself up and go change and leave when you feel ready. If no one's around I tell the clerk I'm leaving, I sign more forms, and they ask me if I have someone to chaperone me.
- I usually feel a little groggy and a bit depressed afterwards, like I just had a too-long nap. I never get much gas. I think once my upper back ached a little bit. For the rest of the day I just feel tired/sleepy, but I have no memory issues at all. The only part I don't remember is the actual procedure.
posted by Stoof at 12:43 PM on October 21, 2022

Best answer: I had one about a year ago. They used propofol I believe. I don't usually get health anxiety, but I was a bit nervous b/c they ended up cancelling my original one at my dr's office (twice!) and sent me to do it in the hospital b/c of some concerns about my asthma flaring up.

It was totally fine. They gave me the propofol, I remember nothing about the procedure itself, they left me in a room while the sedation wore off, then once they wore off enough for me to get up and get dressed, I was allowed to be escorted home. I ate as soon as I was home. I was maybe a bit tired, but I didn't feel particularly out of it or anything once the drugs wore off. I basically spent the day pleasantly chilling.

I really enjoyed the sense of peaceful calmness I got as the drugs kicked in and when I woke up from them. It was honestly one of my most pleasant medical experiences. Way less annoying than say getting an MRI. I didn't have any gas or sore throat or anything. I was back to 100% normal by the next day - and honestly, I felt pretty normal within about 30 minutes of the procedure itself.

And on preview, the only memory "hole" i have is of the procedure itself. Once I was awake enough to sit up, my memory was back and normal.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:32 AM on October 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Endoscopy complete!! Fell asleep when they hooked up the IV, don’t remember the procedure, do remember everything else. Felt woozy for a few hours and then back to normal. Ate a cheeseburger right after and felt fine, just dozed off for the rest of the night watching my partner play video games. All in all no big deal. Thanks so much everyone, you made me have 100x fewer intrusive thoughts about canceling my appointment.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:47 AM on October 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

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