A colonoscopy is where the doctor uses an instrument called a colonoscope to look at the inside of your large bowel. This is done to see if there are any growths, polyps, cancers or disease in your bowel.
A colonoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light attached which allows the doctor to see the pictures of the inside of your bowel on a video screen. The scope bends, so that the doctor can move it around the curves of your colon. The scope also blows air into your bowel, so that the doctor can see better. As a result, you might feel some pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure.
This instrument can also be used to remove or burn growths or polyps and/or to take tissue biopsies.
This procedure starts from your back passage (anus) and goes to the right side of your bowel (ascending colon). You will lie on your side or back while the doctor slowly passes the colonoscope along your large bowel to look at the bowel lining. The lining will be looked at again as the colonoscope is taken out.
You should plan on two to three hours for waiting, preparation and recovery. The procedure itself usually takes anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes.
This procedure may or may not require a sedation anesthetic.
The procedure can be uncomfortable and to make the procedure more comfortable a sedative injection or a light anesthetic will be given. Before the procedure begins, the doctor will put a drip into a vein in your hand or forearm. This is where the sedation or anaesthetic is injected.
Sedation is the use of drugs that give you a ‘sleepy-like’ feeling. It makes you feel very relaxed during a procedure that may be otherwise unpleasant or painful.
You may remember some or little about what has occurred during the procedure.
Anaesthesia is generally very safe but every anaesthetic has a risk of side-effects and complications. Whilst these are usually temporary, some of them may cause long-term problems.
There are risks and complications with this procedure.
They include but are not limited to the following.
You are less at risk of problems if you do the following:
Tell your doctor if you have:
The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and complete, so be sure to follow your instructions carefully otherwise you may need to have the test again.
Your stomach must be empty for the procedure to be safe and thorough, so you will not be able to eat or drink anything for at least six hours before the procedure.
Iron tablets need to be stopped at least one week before your procedure.
Before your colonoscopy, your doctor/nurse will tell you what you can and cannot eat and drink. They will also tell you what bowel cleansing routine you will use.
The preparation is usually made up of either drinking a large amount of a special cleansing drink or clear liquids and oral laxatives. It is wise to stay close to a toilet. It is not uncommon for people to feel dizzy, have a headache or omit while taking this preparation.
Your doctor may take a biopsy (a very small piece of the bowel lining) to be examined at Pathology.
Biopsies are used to identify many conditions even if cancer is not thought to be the problem. It is not uncommon for your doctor to find a polyp/s.
If your colonoscopy is being done to find sites of bleeding, your doctor may stop the bleeding through the colonoscope by:
Polyps are fleshy growths in the bowel lining, and they can be as small as a tiny dot or up to several centimeters in size.
They are not usually cancer but can grow into cancer over time. Taking polyps out is an important way of preventing bowel cancer.
The doctor usually removes a polyp during the colonoscopy, using a wire loop to remove the polyp from the bowel wall. An electric current is sometimes also used. This is not painful.
Your symptoms may become worse and the doctor will not be able to give you the correct treatment without knowing the cause of your problems.
There are a number of tests that can be done, such as:
You will remain in the recovery area for about 2 hours until the effect of the sedation wears off.
Your doctor will tell you when you can eat and drink.
Most times this is straight after the procedure.
You might have some cramping pain or bloating because of the air entering the bowel during the procedure. This should go away when you pass wind. Moving around, helps this.
You will be told what was found during the examination or you may need to come back to discuss the results, and to find out the results of any biopsies that may have been taken.
Sedation will affect your judgment for about 24 hours.
For your own safety and in some cases legally;
Notify the hospital Emergency Department straight away if you have;