Endoscopic mucosal resection - removing the lining of the stomach

Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) means removing abnormal areas in the lining of the stomach.

Your doctor uses a long flexible tube (endoscope) with a tiny camera and light on the end to look inside your stomach. Then they remove the abnormal area by passing special instruments through the tube.

This type of surgery is for people who have a very early stage cancer that’s small and within the inner layers of the stomach (the mucosa).

What happens

You have the procedure in the endoscopy unit in hospital. You probably had an endoscopy as one of the tests to diagnose the cancer. The preparation for an EMR is the same as for an endoscopy.

Your doctor will explain what they are going to do and you’ll sign a consent form. This is a good time to ask any questions you might have.

Diagram showing how the endoscopic tube goes through your mouth, down into your oesophagus and eventually into your stomach.

Before the procedure

When you arrive, the nurse might ask you to go into a cubicle to change into a hospital gown.

You lie down on the couch and an anaesthetist puts a small tube (cannula) into a vein in your arm or hand. They then attach a drip that contains a sedative. It takes a few minutes for you to go to sleep.

Some people need to have the procedure under a general anaesthetic. Your doctor will tell you if you do too.

During the procedure

Once you’re sleepy, your doctor passes the endoscope down your throat. Using the endoscope they inject fluid into the layer of cells below the cancer or abnormal area. The fluid makes it stand out from the rest of the tissue.

Your doctor removes the area of tissue using a thin wire. They collect the tissue to look at under a microscope.

The procedure takes between 30 and 90 minutes depending on how much of the lining they need to remove.

After the procedure

You'll need to rest for a while afterwards. You won’t remember having the procedure.

Whether you can go home the same day or stay in hospital overnight will vary. You need someone to take you home and be with you when you go.

You usually just drink liquids for the first couple of days after the procedure and gradually build up to a normal diet again.

You could have:

  • mild chest pain like heartburn
  • mild discomfort when you eat food
  • bloating and discomfort lasting a few hours

You can take paracetamol to control any pain you might have. Don’t take aspirin or non-steroidal painkillers such as ibuprofen.

Possible risks

Your doctors will make sure the benefits of having the surgery outweigh these possible risks

  • bleeding – contact the hospital if you start bleeding from your mouth or if your poo is black
  • a sore throat that can last for up to 24 hours – contact the hospital if you have severe pain in your throat, chest or tummy (abdomen)
  • fluid going into your lungs from your mouth – this rarely happens as a nurse removes the fluid from your mouth during the procedure
  • a reaction to the sedative making you breathless
  • a small tear (perforation) in the food pipe, stomach or small bowel - this is rare but can be serious 

Follow up

At your first follow up appointment, your doctor:

  • gives you the results of the surgery
  • examines you
  • asks how you are and if you've had any problems  

This is also your opportunity to ask any questions. Write down any questions you have before your appointment to help you remember what to ask. Taking someone with you can also help you to remember what the doctor says.

How often you have follow up appointments depends on the results of your surgery. Ask your doctor how often you need to have checkups and what they will involve.

You usually have an endoscopy 3 months later to check that your stomach is healing.

Last reviewed: 
10 Jan 2020
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