What happens during a colonoscopy? 

A colorectal surgeon explains what happens during a colonoscopy, a procedure which examines the large bowel, the colon or the rectum.

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The 18 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Uluru said on 17 July 2014

I was absolutely dreading my colonoscopy. I found the bowel prep the worst and ended up with a very sore bottom and even a small tear and some bleeding. The bowel prep Movieprep tasted like industrial cleaner with a sickly cloying lemony flavour. Started off at 7pm in hospital as admitted prior to colonoscopy following day. Bowel action started at 9.30 and continued to 2 a.m. Was woken at 6 a.m. to start the second dose and found this even worse to take first thing in the morning and was so glad I had Lucozade which I took after every glass full of medication. The actual colonoscopy was completely pain free. I was only given mild sedation and was awake but felt calm and watched the whole thing on screen which I found fascinating. A couple of polyps were removed, rectal intussusception was seen and diverticular disease. In Melbourne 10 years ago I had a colonoscopy and when sedated fell asleep immediately and woke up in recovery, so was expecting the same this time, however I am sure they gave me far more sedative than the hospital I was a patient at here in UK, so I was very surprised I had no reaction and was wide awake, only a small dose of Midozolam. However, as I say the whole procedure was painless and the staff were great, especially the doctor who carried out my colonoscopy. No ill effects afterwards and that cup of tea and sandwich they gave me in recovery tasted like cordon bleu! Went home a couple of hours later , no bowel problems. Slept for 7 hours that night. Got up the following morning and had one loose motion, no pain. Feel fine. Look forward to my results in 3 week's time at clinic.

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rjcUK said on 03 June 2014

I'm a 40-yr old male and I had my first colonoscopy today without sedation.

I thought everyone was sedated for this procedure so I was surprised when the nurse asked me whether I wanted to do it without sedation. They would put the canula in anyway and if I wanted it they could do it and it would take 20-30secs to kick-in. They would pull the scope out if they were to do that.

Anyway, that all sounded like a bit of a faff so I said I'd go for it without sedation. It was okay. For me the discomfort in having a colonscopy is a complex issue. Firstly, if like me you had a bit of a sore bottom from the prep solutions(!) then things are generally a bit tender down there. Secondly, having anything shoved where the sun doesn't shine is a novel experience for me and not actually one that I would like to repeat. Thirdly, you are surrounded by professionals which is fine but I had the glory of having a student nurse observing too. Fourth, there's the discomfort of feeling that you need to poo constantly. And, finally, there was a bit of discomfort when they were pumping air in.

I didn't feel any pain from the procedure (apart from the pumping of air bit which lasted about 5 seconds and was no worse than a case of trapped wind) and the nurse and the doctor did a great job of trying to distract me by asking me about my job, family, etc.

The worst for me was the trapped wind afterwards. It took about 2 hrs to go completely and in the meantime it was pretty painful. The best way I found to relieve the pain was to rest of my back in bed with my bum raised up on several cushions so the trapped air could travel upwards through my colon.

Luckily my colon is 'normal' with no polyps. I did get diagnosed with having diverticular disease which apparently is very common from 40yrs+. I was advised to continue a high fibre diet and drink plenty of water. They didn't seem at all bothered about it and, in fact, it wasn't even included in my results report sent to my GP.

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Jimmy54o said on 10 March 2014

I would like to put everyone at ease who will be undergoing this procedure.

I am 24 years old and horribly fearful of all things hospital related. Passing out from a blood test being my highlight. I underwent a Colonoscopy & Gastroscopy today at Frimely Park Hospital. I was very nervous in the waiting room but it really was for nothing. The staff were all so lovely and helped me relax. I had the sedative but could have quite easily done without it. The Gastroscopy was the most uncomfortable with the occasional gagging sensation but it was over in around 5 minutes. The Colonoscopy was literally painless. The only mild discomfort comes from the air pumped in but this is not a continuous discomfort. It is similar to a bloating feeling...I even mustered up the courage to watch the live video feed on the monitor. It was actually quite interesting. After the procedure they took my BP several times to make sure everything was all in order. After getting changed I was greeted with a cup of tea and packet of biscuits - After no food for over 24 hours they tasted heavenly! So, if you are going for one or both of these procedures please feel reassured that there is nothing to worry about, you will be in good hands. If you are nervous let the staff know, they are so supportive. Just think of the wonderful food you can eat afterward - For me this took the form of a massive fry-up down the local cafe.

A quick word on the bowel prep the day before. Buy some nappy rash cream and soft toilet paper or baby wipes. The last thing you want is a sore bottom! I had around 14 bowel movements over the course of the day from 2 satchets of Picolax. The taste of the solution was fine as well. Setting up camp in the toilet with drinks and movies made for quite an amusing day.

Best of luck to anyone reading this. I hope your procedure is a successful one.

Kind Regards,
James

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bibbys0 said on 09 December 2013

After reading the comments on here I must admit it terrified me a bit.I had been using every excuse for the last four months not to go for a colonoscopy, In the end I agreed and had my appointment today.
I must of talked myself into and out of having the procedure done 100's of times over the past 3 days but for the sake of my health and possible life I decided to give in gratefully and take the laxative last night.I purposely ate very little yesterday so the whole experience was not to bad of prepping my bowel.
I had decided even though reading nightmare stories to have no sedation or analgesia.I went for the appointment and was met by a pleasant nurse who did the prep and then it was time for me to go into the room.I saw the camera and thought no way would that all fit in but laid down and waited for the doc.Whilst waiting they asked me if i was sure I didnt want anything and I said I would have the gas and air if i thought i needed it..
The doctor arrived explained the procedure and then put some jelly up my bottom.I laid on my side and watched the TV screen.When he inserted the camera I did not hurt and i continued to watch my bowel like a fascinating documentary on TV. The doctor then puts gas through your bowel and the best way to cope with this is to force the wind back out as suggested by the nurse.At no time and I must reiterate at no time was I in any pain whatsoever.The gas sometimes felt a little uncomfortable but that was literally for a couple of seconds whilst I let it back out which is not difficult and you soon get over the embarrassment.I watched as the doctor took some routine biopsy's and could see on the tv bits being pulled off which i never felt
Then that was it over I was immediately told my bowel was normal which was a relief,
So please use your own opinion and dont be scared by what others have put.
This is my own experience and would not hesitate to have the procedure done again if need without sedation or pain relief.

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doodledoll said on 21 October 2013

I had my colonoscopy last week, and it was a very uncomfortable experience.
The staff were brilliant, and very supportive, but I think I could have done with a bit more sedative - the people in adjacent rooms must have wondered what was happening. I can remember lots of what was going on.
However, uncomfortable as it was, it was only half an hour and the fact it was clear and nothing found made it worth the discomfort.
Everyone has a different level of pain tolerance, so it will be different for you.
If you are booked for one, please go and have it done - I nearly backed out of it, but am glad because now I know there is nothing wrong

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amyzoe said on 12 October 2013

Hi rowroann,
I had my first colonoscopy on 9th October. I was terrified but it really wasn't too bad at all! I had sedation so was asleep for most of the time but I woke up a bit when I had a bit of a colicy feeling but it only lasted about 5 seconds. I also had Pethadine and Buscopan and the staff were so kind. Try not to be frightened, I also read the reviews and they made me feel worse too!
I hope this helps you a little.
Good luck and best wishes :D

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rowroann said on 09 October 2013

I am due to have a Colonoscopy on the 4th November 2013, I am terrified after reading some nearly all the comments about how painful it is. Three years ago I had a Endoscopy, it was just so painful. I expressed today to the Hospital about my fears and was told that it is uncomfortable but not painful, I don't know who to believe.

I watched Lynn Faulds video who she did say it was uncomfortable but not painful, also the Doctor who did the procedure said it should not be painful, if this is the case, is it that the people who have experienced excruciating pain during this procedure, is it being done by inexperienced Doctor's?

I am really sorry I have read these reviews, as I am more frightened than ever.

Although, I know I have to go through this to determine an answer to the recent problems I have been having, surely there has to be a better way for people to not go through this pain. Clearly it is happening!

Does anyone know, whether you can request a GA for this? or is it a case you just have to go through this?

Any answers please anyone or advice?

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poppysol said on 07 October 2013

I had a colonoscopy this morning. had a sedative and i cannot remember the beginning of procedure but the came to in lots of pain. they topped up sedative but everytime they moved the intrument inside i was in lots of pain to the point of tears. this is when they stopped. but removing this was painful too. i was totally disappointed as i have had pain for 3yrs. was investgated by woman's health but nothing found. i was puzzled as i had sedation at dentist and was fine. but i was just totally awake as when pain started and have been since. everyone was lovely on the dept as i was upset.

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lozzywozzy said on 29 May 2013

I am a 40 year old male and have just had my first colonoscopy today. I read lots of the comments on this page and must say that I was petrified but there was no need to be as it went fine and just had some minor discomfort. The staff at Aintree Hospital were fantastic, they explained everything that was about to happen and calmed my nerves. I had pain relief and a minor sedative but remained awake and talking throughout the procedure. I watched everything on the monitor and each area was explained to me as I was asking lots of questions. It wasn't fun but interesting and I felt no pain only minor discomfort similar to wind or needing to go to the loo rather quickly. I am home now and have just eaten some fish fingers and feel ok. I worried over nothing.

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kjc_2810 said on 24 May 2013

I had my first colonoscopy today with no sedation. I chose not to due to needing to look after my daughter that evening. If I had known what lay in store I would have definitely opted for the sedation! The nurse who prepped me told me not to worry as there are no pain receptors in the colon and that the only discomfort would be from the insertion which lulled me into a false sense of security. The insertion was the easy part and the first few minutes were also ok until the first corner was reached. I don't recall the much of the rest of he procedure as I think I passed out from the overwhelming pain and the entonox. The nurses where very good though trying to reasure me as best they could.
Overall I would not want to have to go through the experience again as it was very frightened and has left me feeling shocked. If I require another colonoscopy in the future it will be sedation all the way, I'd even go as far as to ask for a GA.

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Morrell said on 04 March 2013

Obviously those who experienced a painful procedure do have my sympathy. However, readers do need to also know that many of us have not experienced pain. I'm a 69 year old male and my colonoscopy was carried out at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth as a result of failing the 'Bowel screening' trial.

My initial first visit was with the Colonoscopy Screening Practitioner nurse (no examination required) who was extremely kind and helpful and I was given a date for the procedure together with 3 Prolax laxative sachets for use the day before the colonoscopy. I had also read horror stories about taking this, but again it was OK for me. It has a lemon taste and I suggest using two straws to drink it as it then misses the taste buds. I used to make up apple squash with hot water (1 part to 5 water) for the hourly 250ml drink, as I found it easier to drink than the other suggestions. From the very start make sure you use Vaseline over your anus after every bowel movement and pat the anus dry with toilet paper and I experienced no soreness. I went 7 hours before a bowel movement so don't worry if things are slow to start.

The colonoscopy Doctor and nurses were really nice and caring and whilst anaesthesia is not performed, I was sedated with Buscopan, Midazolam and Pethidine and whilst there were some short periods of discomfort which for me felt like bruising, I did not have any pain. They removed 2 polyps from the Caesum which is the furthermost part of the bowel, 1 polyp from the Sigmoid and diagnosed Diverticular in the Sigmoid and I felt no pain or discomfort at all when the polyps were removed.

No one should not have pain during the procedure and in those cases one has to question the doctor's ability. This is documented in the Lynn Faulds YouTube 'Having a Colonoscopy' where the consultant confirms this.

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jeanlyon said on 21 January 2013

I have just had a colonoscopy today and it was absolute agony. I started off on Entonox which was less than useless. The first part was uncomfortable, but bearable, however, as they turned the corner I nearly screamed. I was told to relax and not to hold my breath. Easier said than done methinks. After some more agonizing pain they then decided on sedation. Fentanyl and another drug. I felt a little better for a few seconds but then the pain started again. Was told to turn on to my back and they finally reach the end. They told me I have severe diverticular disease and that was causing the pain.
Never again.

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JudySR said on 18 January 2012

My second colonoscopy was even more excrutiatingly painful than my first. On both occasions I had sedation but it was agony and the procedure had to be halted because of the pain.
Afterwards I overheard a nurse, who was in the unit for an endoscopy, saying to a colleague that even with sedation she wouldn't have a colonscopy and when she had hers it was done under general anaesthetic. Her colleague replied that she would never have a colonoscopy without GA and wondered how some patients could bear it. After 24 hours, I am still in a state of shock. I have given birth to two babies without any pain relief and used breathing techniques to combat the pain but to no avail. Anyone worried about a colonscopy should ask about a GA.

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Anniepopolova said on 04 December 2011

I am happy that I am able to leave my positive comment about my experience yesterday. I had determined that I would not accept sedation as, compared to suffering 26 years of endometriosis I thought I would be able to bear 25 minutes of discomfort. I was right. Although the procedure was uncomfortable and painful at times the pain was completely bearable with a few deep breaths and the understanding that I would be able to leave the hospital immediately it was over and not lie/sit about for 2 hours in and around a hospital bed. There is no doubt that it hurts at times (but not all the time) but I have to say that I have worse headaches that have lasted longer!

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airportbaz said on 24 November 2011

I was put forward for an upper and lower gastroscropy after a flare up of of Ulcerative Colitis. This was carried out on 23rd Nov 2011. I'm thankful that I hadn't read the comments about the pain, I was already a nervous wreck. However, I'd like to add that my experience was far from painful, a certain amount of discomfort and some unusual sensations, but if and when I need to undergo this procedure again I won't lose any sleep. Everything was explained by the nurse, then again by the consultant. I was offered 'gas and air' but found it un-necessary. The professionalism and care I received at my local NHS hospital put me at total ease. Apart from a very sore throat thanks to the camera going in that end first, I have no after effects whatsoever. This was a 'full' colonoscopy that lasted 25 minutes and it was fascinating to watch the various procedures on the screen. Have no doubt that this minor op could save your life. I know everybody is different but I felt I needed to regress the balance for anyone contemplating this and reading only the bad experiences. You can always ask for sedation which, I believe, makes for a less traumatic time, I didn't even though I'm a coward when it comes to a filling at the dentist!!

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Nickyf said on 19 October 2011

The NHS video was very informative pre colonoscopy, however I found myself rather anxious after reading the painful experiences of the last two contributors.

I had my coloncoscopy yesterday afternoon and my experience was very different. For other potential patients felt I should share my positive experience.

Everything was explained to me beforehand, initially by a nurse and then in further detail by the consultant gastroenterologist who was going to perform the procedure.

A few minutes before it commenced I was given intravenous Pethadine 25mg and Midazolam 2.5mg as a sedative and mild analgesia.

A nurse sat next to me with an oxygen mask should I require it and she held my hand throughout.
We watched the monitor together whilst the consultant explained everything he was doing - including the six biopsies he took during the process. It was very interesting, and I found that focusing on the monitor helped distract me from the unusual feeling I was experiencing in my insides. Occasionally I found it a little uncomfortable round some of the bends - but not painful as such.

I was expecting cramping and discomfort afterwards but that didn't happen. Today I have had no problems and have commenced a well-balanced normal diet. As my bowel is completely empty I am not expecting much to happen for a few days.

Overall I think that the professionalism of the whole team made a huge difference, I was made to feel that I mattered. The whole ‘putting the patient first’ NHS initiative was certainly demonstrated by this particular team.

When you are advised by your GP to have a colonoscopy do accept the advice. However do also discuss your concerns with him/her and also with the team that you are referred to as they need to understand how you feel.

Colorectal cancer is very common and this amazing imaging technique can identify it early on - and it may well save your life.

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chrony said on 13 October 2011

Just to say i am a woman of 39 who has just had a colonoscopy, never again, it was 15 minutes of excrutiating agony, even WITH an aparent sedative, the consultan himself did the procedure, it was obvious to me and everyone else that it was painful as i was yelping and lifting my body off the bed. to make things worse i also saw the whole thing on a monitor in front of me, while this may be interesting to some, i felt the probe go around every corner, pushed up and down, and then had the pleasure of 6 tiny biopsy's. It hurt, the nurses said it would not, and the consultant ignored my pain. I have had 4 natural childbirths, and this comes close to pain. I have to say i had a colonoscopy 10 years previous and felt no pain and had sufficient sedation. I will never have this procedure done again. Im dissapointed, and also incontinent still 2 days after.

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briwill said on 07 June 2011

May I say,as a 68 year old male,the colonoscopy treatment I had recently was the most painful experience of my life. The NHS doctor who performed it was young and was being overseen and advised by a senior.The pain whilst the camera was going around bends in the colon was excrutiating. I was not offered any sedation before the treatment which I find a total mystery for a man of my age. Since coming home I could not urinate for 36 hours or go to the toilet to empty my bowels for several days.The pain in my back passage has been severe for several days too. Beware of the possible consequences if your G.P. suggests you have one. Briwill

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