Endoscopy Recovery Time: What to Expect

Endoscopy is a procedure in the United States where a scope with a camera is inserted into the stomach in order to collect diagnostic images. It is a procedure that takes anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. Endoscopy is also used for treatment and can be used to collect tissue for diagnostic purposes as well.

It is used to investigate symptoms, diagnose them, and then treat them. There are many different kinds of endoscopy, and they can be performed all over the body. Although this may sound invasive, endoscopy recovery time is still minimal in most circumstances.

The length of recovery for endoscopy procedures can be impacted by pre-existing medical conditions, age, and other factors. However, the recovery time is typically quite minimal, with patients often able to go home in as little as an hour after the procedure. Learn what to expect in this endoscopy recovery guide here, and you will be well on your way to a smooth and seamless endoscopy recovery.

Recovery Time After Endoscopy

In most endoscopies, a sedative is used that will relax you and help you to sleep while the procedure is being performed. This sedative is a light sedative that will typically wear off within an hour of the procedure’s completion.

Once this sedative wears off, you will likely be permitted to go home. The sedative is expected to be fully out of your system within 24 hours. That is the typical recovery time for an endoscopy. It is unlikely that you will need much time off work, if any.

While you are recovering, it is recommended that you do not consume any alcohol or drive heavy machinery or vehicles. Your stomach may not be feeling well at this time. Try to eat soft food like eggs and puddings, or soup and other easy dishes to eat.

Today, science is advancing such that this recovery time for endoscopy may be minimized even more in the future. One alternative to sedative endoscopies is a virtual endoscopy, where a series of CT scans are used and put on top of each other in order to determine the diagnosis.

Another kind of endoscopy called a capsule endoscopy involves a pill with a camera inside it to be swallowed. Within 8 hours, the camera will begin taking the pictures a doctor would need and transmitting them to a device that you would wear. Then, the camera is excreted as anything else normally would be.

This kind of endoscopy is the least invasive with minimal recovery time or disturbances to your quality of life. It also allows the doctor to see more of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract than they would in a standard endoscopy.

Factors Affecting Endoscopy Recovery Time

When you are wondering how long your endoscopy recovery time will take, you will have to take into account different factors and lifestyle matters in your own life. In most cases, a GI endoscopy will involve a recovery of one hour in the hospital or clinic, and then a day at home to sleep off the sedative and the experience. For patients that are older or have pre-existing conditions, recovery time may be longer, as will time in the hospital.

One study indicated that patients with hypertension were more likely to have a longer recovery time from their endoscopy than patients without hypertension. Still, the time was not by much, with a time difference of about 10 extra minutes in the hospital for patients with hypertension or high blood pressure. The kind of medication used for a sedative also mattered in this study. Patients that were given a higher dose of benzodiazepine had a longer recovery time as well, with approximately 3 more minutes in the hospital than patients given another sedative.

Pre-existing medical conditions will also play a role in your recovery time. In another study, patients with a history of stroke were most likely to have a longer recovery time at home. For them, the dosages of their sedative also played a role in lengthening recovery time, which could be from six extra minutes in the hospital to days or weeks, depending on the outcomes of the procedure.

Expected Recovery Time for Different Types of Endoscopy Procedures

There is an endoscopy procedure for every part of the body and organ. Most endoscopies will cover an organ system and its corresponding parts. The expected recovery time is very similar across all types of endoscopy.

Still, how the endoscopy is performed will play a significant role in the length of the recovery time. These are the most common endoscopies and their recovery times:

  • Arthroscopy: Performed on joints with small incisions, recovery is typically one to two weeks.
  • Bronchoscopy: Similar to GI endoscopy but to the lungs, with recovery typically one to two days.
  • Colonoscopy: A scope is inserted into the anus with a recovery time of one to two days.
  • Hysteroscopy: In this endoscope, the scope is inserted into the vagina and recovery is typically less than two days.
  • Laparoscopy: Here, an incision or several are made to insert a scope directly into the pelvic or stomach region.

After your endoscopy, you want to take as much time as you need to fully recover before you go back to your normal routines. Taking care of yourself will help to shorten the recovery time and make it a smooth experience.

Tips for a Smooth Recovery

When you are recovering from an endoscopy, the best thing to do is to rest and take care of yourself for a few days. Some bloating and nausea are considered normal. This is a combination of taking the sedative and also the procedure that is impacting your stomach.

You may also experience a sore throat for a day or two after your test. It is okay to take lozenges or throat sprays. Gargling with salt water will also be very effective.

It is recommended that you drink a lot of fluid during your recovery. This will help to flush the sedative from your system and aid in a faster recovery. If you can not swallow much as a result of the procedure, drink with a straw and eat soup with a straw as well.

It is normal to lose your appetite for a day or two after the procedure. You will know you are recovering well when your appetite returns and you feel hungry again.

Post-Operative Care After Endoscopy

When you have had an endoscopy, you will not feel like yourself afterward. This is a stressful experience, even when you are given a sedative. In some cases, the patient may prefer to drive home after the procedure.

In this case, you will not be given a sedative and the procedure could be painful or extremely uncomfortable. It is important that you follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter after going home after an endoscopy.

Diet and Rest

You will not feel like eating for the first few hours and maybe days after an endoscopy. Get a lot of rest and sleep when your body tells you to after an endoscopy. You also want to stick to fluids for your diet or soft foods that you can handle.

Soups, puddings and jellos, and other soft foods can help you to avoid feeling hungry when you are not feeling well. Do not avoid food during recovery, as the energy food provides will help you to heal faster.

Pain Management

You may be given some pain management when you are recovering from an endoscopy. Endoscopy recovery time can be improved with pain management and even lessened in some cases. That is because you will not be feeling the stress of the pain that you are in, and will recover faster when you are feeling comfortable.

Follow-Up Appointment

Your endoscopy is meant to learn more about your health. You will be given a follow-up appointment after your endoscopy so that your doctor can review the results of the test with you. Make sure that you keep your appointment, and bring a list of your questions to the appointment.

When to Seek Medical Attention

There are some complications and problems to look for when you are recovering from an endoscopy. Your doctor will tell you what to expect as far as your symptoms are concerned, but you may see some symptoms not on that list.

If you are experiencing severe or prolonged pain or symptoms like dizziness or unconsciousness, seek medical attention. It is possible to have some complications such as these after an endoscopy as everybody handles sedatives and procedures such as this differently.

A woman discusses an endoscopy with her doctor

Complications After Endoscopy

Complications after an endoscopy could happen, and there are some risks to the procedure. It is normal to be alarmed over any symptom or side effect after you have had a diagnostic procedure such as an endoscopy. Some symptoms are normal, and others will require medical attention.

Common Complications

Allergic reactions to sedatives are among the most common complications after an endoscopy. You may also experience a perforation or tear in the digestive tract or stomach. If you are experiencing unusual pain that does not go away, talk to your doctor about it.

Some cramping, a numbed throat, and a feeling of bloating are also common complications of endoscopy. These symptoms are likely to go away within a few days.

Uncommon Complications

There are other complications after an endoscopy that you will want to see a doctor for. Those include:

  • Darkened stools
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath issues
  • Vomiting blood
  • Severe pain in the stomach

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor if you feel they can not wait until your follow-up appointment.

Red Flags for Serious Complications

If you have pain that is more serious as time goes on, then you will need to seek urgent medical care. Difficulties breathing and any signs of excessive vomiting are also important indicators of serious complications after endoscopy. You also need to check in with your doctor if you have a fever that will not go away with time.

Heal Quickly After an Endoscopy

When you are wondering how long it takes to recover from an endoscopy, you can rest assured that it typically doesn’t take more than a few days. Endoscopy recovery time is minimal when you take care of yourself and your body after the procedure. Rest well, eat and drink soft foods and liquids, and manage your pain if needed. If you do that and have no other health complications in progress, you will recover quickly and be back to your normal routine just days after your endoscopy.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/about/pac-20395197
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/4957-upper-endoscopy-procedure
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