What to Expect with Your Colonoscopy Procedure

A colonoscopy involves the use of a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the inside of your colon (large intestine). It provides a direct look at the colon (as opposed to x-ray studies, which look at shadows), and is commonly used as a means of colorectal cancer screening.

BEFORE YOUR COLONOSCOPY PROCEDURE

It is important that the colon be clean and empty for this procedure. You have an important role to play in this. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, which you should follow carefully. If you have difficulty in following the instructions, please contact us. If you are on any blood thinning medications such as aspirin, Motrin, Coumadin, or other non-steroidals, please stop taking these medications seven days before the procedure.

DURING YOUR PROCEDURE

During the procedure, you will lie on your left side on an examination table. You will be given medication intravenously (IV) through the arm in order to help you relax. With this medication, you should not feel pain or have any memory of the procedure. A lubricant is then applied around the anus; a digital exam is performed with the exam finger, and the colonoscope is passed into the rectum. It is necessary for the doctor to introduce some air into the colon to aid in the examination. This may cause you to feel bloated and full. If you have the urge to pass the air, you may do so unless your doctor requests otherwise. The large intestine is not straight, but rather has curves, and at times twists. Therefore, as the instrument is passed around these turns, it may cause a cramping or tugging sensation. This is usually relieved as the instrument is straightened. The exam typically takes between 15-20 minutes, but may take longer if polyps have to be removed, or biopsies obtained.

AFTER YOUR PROCEDURE

After the procedure, you will be asked to rest for up to an hour in a recovery room, in order for the effects of the medication to wear off and for you to pass the air introduced into the colon. Due to the medication you are given, you should not drive for the remainder of the day. Therefore, it is important that you arrange for transportation home. You can resume your regular diet immediately following the procedure.

Your doctor will explain to you what, if anything, was found during the procedure. In some cases, polyps (small growths inside the colon) may be found. Most are benign; however, some may become cancerous if left untreated. Often, polyps can be removed during the colonoscopy. While this lengthens the time of the procedure, it often prevents the need for surgical intervention.

Patients may experience gas pain from the air introduced into the colon from during the procedure. Most of this discomfort will subside on resuming normal activities. Some minor discomfort may remain for 24 to 36 hours following the procedure and should not be a cause for alarm.

You may not have a normal bowel movement until the third day after the colonoscopy. This is a normal consequence of the procedure.

If you have had a polypectomy performed or multiple biopsies taken, you may notice some blood in your next bowel movement.

Contact your doctor if:

• Lasting pain occurs.

• Blood persists after the first or second bowel movement, or of the amount of blood you see if worrisome.

RISKS

As with any procedure, there are some risks with colonoscopy, but they are rare. Perforation (rupture of the colon) and bleeding are the main risks. Although uncommon, they can be treated by your doctor.

IMPORTANT REMINDERS

1. Please contact our Ellicott City or Glen Burnie offices with any questions.
2. Please make sure you arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.