Hypoventilation as a consequence of deep intravenous sedation is the most frequently reported cause of cardiac arrest during upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (UGIE). Haemodynamic stress can contribute to myocardial ischaemia; therefore, this study was designed to observe prospectively the cardio-respiratory changes during UGIE using either midazolam or propofol for conscious sedation. Thirty-four patients, aged 50 years and older, ASA physical status I–III, scheduled for elective UGIE with sedation, were studied. Oxygen saturation, heart rate, non-invasive blood pressure and Holter ECG were recorded continuously starting 15 min before sedation until 15 min after the endoscopy. In addition, plasma catecholamine concentrations were determined. The results of this study are consistent with previous reports that cardiopulmonary events may occur during endoscopy, with or without sedation. Both midazolam and propofol sedation may provide some protection against haemodynamic stress in response to insertion and manipulation of the endoscope, but sedation can also contribute to the occurrence of hypoxaemia.