Colonoscopy

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure during which a colonoscope (a thin flexible tube with fibre optic sensors) is passed through the rectum and into the large colon (large intestine). It allows your doctor to examine and treat conditions affecting the colon. A colonoscopy is performed in a hospital or specialist day centre.

Why is a colonoscopy performed?

A colonoscopy may be performed for a number of reasons:

– To investigate symptoms of the lower digestive tract such as abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea, constipation and bleeding.
– To look for inflammation, infection and abnormal growths (polyps) within the colon.
-Screening for bowel cancer particularly in people above age 50 years or those with a family history.

Colonoscopy

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

For a successful colonoscopy, it is essential that your bowel be thoroughly emptied. This is achieved by taking a specific bowel preparation. Failure to achieve complete cleansing of the bowel may result in your doctor missing important features of your colon, and may mean you have to return for a repeat procedure.

For safety reasons it is important that you follow the instruction sheet provided and have nothing to drink for at least 2 hours prior to your colonoscopy.

Whilst most medications can be taken as usual with a sip of water on the day of your procedure, some medications need to be stopped, or have their dose altered. 

You should notify your doctor at least 7 days prior to your procedure if you are taking:

  • Blood thinners (clopidogrel, warfarin, pradaxa, eliquis etc), or
  • Diabetes medication (metformin, insulin, ‘gliflozins’ etc)

Please bring your referral, a full list of your medications and your medicare card/private health fund information on the day of your procedure. 

What will happen on the day?

– After registering at reception, you will be checked in by a nurse.
– You will then be seen by your Gastroenterologist and Anaesthetist who will discuss your medical history and the procedure.
– You will then be given a light anaesthetic (sedative). While this is not a general anaesthetic, most patients are very comfortable during the procedure and do not experience any pain.
– Once sedated and lying in a comfortable position on your left side the endoscope is passed gently through the rectum and into the large bowel.
– During the colonoscopy your specialist may use special instruments passed through the scope to take biopsies or remove polyps (small pre-cancerous growths in the bowel). The procedure usually lasts for between 15 and 20mins.

What happens after my colonoscopy?

Following the procedure you will be monitored in the recovery area until most of the sedative medication has worn off. You will then be offered something to eat and drink. Because of the sedative medication, it is essential that you have a friend or relative take you home and stay with you for several hours. It is strongly recommended that you do not drive, operate machinery or sign legal documents on the same day after the test.

The pathology results of any samples taken during the procedure will be sent to your referring doctor within 1 week.

Are there any risks or side-effects?

Overall a colonoscopy is a very safe procedure that most patients tolerate extremely well. The most common side effect is abdominal bloating or discomfort related to  air blown into the bowel during the procedure. More serious but rare complications (less than 1 in a thousand patients) can occur and include bleeding, or a tear in the lining of the colon (perforation). These complications can often be repaired using colonoscopy-guided interventions, however, occasionally surgery is required.  .

Please contact Gastro IQ or your nearest emergency department if you have any concerns or experience any of the following symptoms after your colonoscopy:

  • Worsening abdominal pain
  • Significant bleeding from the bowel
  • Fevers
  • Other symptoms that cause you concern

How accurate is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is considered the most accurate way to assess your large bowel and to screen for colon polyps.

Your Gastroenterologist will discuss having the procedure with you on the day of your colonoscopy, and will be available to follow up any conditions that need additional treatment.