A colonoscopy is a procedure that enables your doctor to examine the lining of the colon (large bowel). Under sedation, a flexible tube is gently passed via the rectum (back passage) into the colon. A tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken, or polyps (growths) removed and sent to the pathologist. Colonoscopy is the best test to assess for bowel polyps or cancers, although no test is 100% accurate.
The procedure usually takes approximately 30 minutes, and most patients will not remember the procedure.
Is Colonoscopy safe?
Colonoscopy is a safe and well tolerated procedure, although it is recommended that you seek advice prior to the procedure if you have significant heart, lung or kidney problems. It is normal to feel temporary bloating following the procedure due to inflation of the bowel during the procedure. Occasionally there may be nausea or lightheadedness following the anaesthetic. Serious complications are rare, but may include:
- Perforation (a hole in the bowel wall) which may require surgery – this is uncommon, 1 in 3000 cases
- Aspiration (inhaling of stomach contents into the lung whilst sedated) which may require antibiotic treatment or hospitalization if severe;
- Bleeding if a polyp is removed?may occur up to 2 weeks following the procedure and rarely requires hospitalization or further procedures to stop the bleeding
- Death is extremely rare, although this is a possible consequence of any medical procedure.
If you wish to discuss the details of all possible rare complications, you should inform your doctor and/or anaesthetist prior to the procedure.
What Bowel Preparation is required?
For the procedure to be accurate, the colon must be completely clean. Please print out a copy of the bowel preparation information sheet at the bottom of screen.
What do I need to bring?
You will need to bring your doctor’s referral if available, health fund card and medicare card. You will need to change into a patient gown for the procedure, and so please bring loose fitting clothing that can be easily removed and folded. Any jewellery and valuables should be left at home.
What happens afterwards?
You may be drowsy for several hours following the colonoscopy due to the sedation administered. A friend or family member needs to drive you home after your procedure. You must not drive or operate any machinery for 24 hours afterwards. You can continue taking all of your prescription medications as directed.
Please contact your doctor if you experience any severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, fevers/chills, breathing difficulty, or any other symptoms you are concerned about. Alternatively, contact the closest emergency department.