Colonoscopy is well-tolerated and
rarely causes much pain. You might feel pressure, bloating or cramping during
the procedure. Your doctor will give you a sedative and pain medication to help you relax and
better tolerate any discomfort.
You will lie on your side or back while your doctor slowly advances a endoscope through your large intestine to examine the
lining. Your doctor will examine the lining again as he or she slowly withdraws
the endoscope. The procedure itself usually takes
15 to 60 minutes, although you should plan on two to three hours for waiting,
preparation and recovery.
In some cases, the doctor cannot pass the endoscope
through the entire colon to where it meets the small intestine. Although
another examination might be needed, your doctor might decide that the limited
examination is sufficient.
What if the colonoscopy shows
If your doctor feels an area needs further evaluation, he or she might pass an
instrument through the endoscope to obtain a biopsy
(a sample of the colon lining) to be analyzed. Biopsies are used to identify
many conditions, and a doctor might order one even if he or she doesn't
suspect cancer. If Colonoscopy is
being performed to identify sites of bleeding, your doctor might control the
bleeding through the endoscope by injecting
medications or by coagulation (sealing off bleeding vessels with heat
treatment). Your doctor might also find polyps during Colonoscopy, and he or she will most
likely remove them during the examination. These procedures rarely cause
What are polyps and why are they removed?
Polyps are abnormal growths in the colon lining that are usually benign (noncancerous).
They vary in size from a tiny dot to several inches. Your doctor can not always
tell a benign polyp from a malignant (cancerous) polyp by its outer appearance,
so he or she might send removed polyps for biopsy. Because cancer begins in
polyps, removing them is an important means of preventing colorectal cancer.
How are polyps removed?
Your doctor might destroy tiny polyps by fulguration (burning) or by removing
them with wire loops called snares or with biopsy instruments. Your doctor
might use a technique called "snare polypectomy"
to remove larger polyps. That technique involves passing a wire loop through
the endoscope and removing the polyp from the
intestinal wall using an electrical current. You should feel no pain during the
What happens after a colonoscopy?
Your physician will explain the results of the examination to you, although
you'll probably have to wait for the results of any biopsies performed.
If you have been given sedatives during the procedure, someone must drive
you home and stay with you. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, your
judgment and reflexes could be impaired for the rest of the day. You might have
some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during
the examination. This should disappear quickly when you pass gas.
You should be able to eat after the examination, but your doctor might
restrict your diet and activities, especially after polypectomy.
What are the possible complications of colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy and polypectomy are safe when performed by our doctors who have
been specially trained and are experienced in these procedures.
One possible complication is a perforation, or tear, through the bowel wall
that could require surgery. Bleeding might occur at the site of biopsy or polypectomy, but it's usually minor. Bleeding can stop on
its own or be controlled through the endoscope; it
rarely requires follow-up treatment. Some patients might have a reaction to the
sedatives or complications from heart or lung disease.
Although complications after Colonoscopy
are uncommon, it's important to recognize early signs of possible
complications. Contact your doctor if you notice severe abdominal pain, fever
and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Note that bleeding
can occur several days after the procedure.