What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of your large bowel (colon) using a flexible telescope.
What are the benefits of a colonoscopy?
If the endoscopist (the person doing the colonoscopy) finds a problem, they can perform biopsies (removing small pieces of tissue) to help make the diagnosis.
Sometimes a polyp (small growth) is the cause of the problem and the endoscopist may be able to remove it during the procedure.
Are there any alternatives to a colonoscopy?
Other options include a barium enema (an x-ray test of your large bowel) or a CT colography (a scan of your large bowel).
What does the procedure involve?
A colonoscopy usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
If appropriate, the endoscopist may offer you a sedative or painkiller which they can give you through a small needle in your arm or the back of your hand.
The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope into your back passage. Air will be blown into your large bowel to help the endoscopist have a clear view. The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. They will be able to perform biopsies and take photographs to help make the diagnosis.
How soon will I recover?
If you were given a sedative, you will usually recover in about 2 hours but this depends on how much sedative you were given. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.
You should be able to return to work the next day unless you are told otherwise.
The healthcare team will tell you what was found during the colonoscopy and discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.
Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
- Allergic reaction
- Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
- Heart attack or stroke can happen if you have serious medical problems
- Blurred vision
- Bleeding from a biopsy site or from minor damage caused by the telescope
- Bleeding, if a polyp is removed
- Making a hole in your colon
- Missed polyp
- Incomplete procedure