Having a colonoscopy can be an effective procedure for diagnosing bowel problems.
If you have been experiencing bowel discomfort and your doctor has booked you in for a colonoscopy, it's essential for us to put your mind at ease by laying out all the facts.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of the large bowel (colon) using a thin flexible tube with a light and camera at the end of it. The aim is to pass the tube around the large bowel. Some air needs to be blown in through the camera so clear views can be obtained of the bowel.
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 the large bowel) although this is rarely used now. More commonly a CT colonography (a special scan of the large bowel) is used to detect any abnormalities. However, a colonoscopy is the gold standard test that can see the lining and also take biopsies at the same time if required.
What does the procedure involve?
A colonoscopy usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour but this can vary for every patient. The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps, which are warty growths in the bowel and are very common. They will be able to perform biopsies and take photographs to help make the diagnosis and some polyps may also be removed during the procedure. If appropriate, the endoscopist may offer you a gas & air or a sedative to help you relax, but this will be discussed with you along with any risks.
What complications can happen?
Although rare, complications can happen. Your endoscopist will explain these to you. Complications can include:
- Allergic reaction
- Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
- Making a hole in the large bowel
- Incomplete procedure
How soon will I recover?
If you were given sedation, you will normally recover in about two hours.
If you were given sedation, you will normally recover in about two hours. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass.
A member of the team will tell you what was found during the colonoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.
You should be able to go back to work the day after the colonoscopy.
It is important to remember that if you have had sedation then this is in your system for at least 24 hours, so you will be advised not to do anything for this time and someone must be with you.
A colonoscopy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out if there is a problem with your large bowel.
If you’re booked in for a colonoscopy, you can speak to your doctor beforehand and ask all of your questions, so they can put your mind at ease. You may also like to read our colonoscopy Q & A where our general surgeons answer the most frequently asked questions regarding this procedure. To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337.