Argon Plasma Coagulation for Vascular Ectasia
Vascular ectasias are small dilated blood vessels (lesions) within the digestive tract that can cause the lining to bleed. They are the most common cause of lower gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding in men and women over the age of 60.
When these lesions occur in the stomach, the condition is known as gastric antral vascular ectasia (GAVE). This particular condition may also be called watermelon stomach, because the dilated blood vessels look like the stripes of a watermelon when viewed by endoscopy.
These vascular lesions are treated with a therapy called argon plasma coagulation (APC), which uses argon gas and an electrical current to destroy the lesions to prevent further bleeding.
How to Prepare for Endoscopic APC
If the procedure will be done through the mouth, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight prior to the procedure.
If the procedure will be done through the rectum, you will need to undergo bowel prep similar to preparing for a colonoscopy. Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions.
Your doctor will let you know if or when you should adjust or stop any medications you take. Because you will be sedated, you will need someone to drive you home after the procedure.
What to Expect
Endoscopic argon plasma coagulation is performed during an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. You will receive pain-relieving medication and sedation through an IV line to relax you and make you feel drowsy.
If the lesions are in the upper GI tract (esophagus, stomach, or upper part of the small intestine), the endoscope is inserted through the throat. A mouth guard will be placed to protect your teeth and gums. Your throat may also be numbed with a spray to calm the gag reflex. If the lesions are in the lower GI tract (colon and rectum), the endoscope is inserted through the anus.
Using a specialized instrument inserted through the endoscope, your doctor will destroy each lesion using argon gas and an electric current. This procedure directly targets the lesion and spares the surrounding healthy tissue.
APC typically takes 30 minutes. After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room while the sedative wears off. You may experience temporary discomfort, such as sore throat (if you had an upper endoscopy), gas, bloating, or cramps. Your doctor will discuss any unexpected side effects that may occur and a plan to address them.
Your doctor will review the results of your APC and discuss any further treatment plan options with you during a follow-up appointment.
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