A colonoscopy is a visual examination of the entire large intestine (colon) using a lighted, flexible colonoscope. To be certain you are comfortable and relaxed, you will be sedated through an I.V. Most people are asleep during the entire procedure and remember little to nothing about it. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are monitored throughout the procedure.
When it's time to start the screening, you will be asked to lie on your left side. Once the sedation takes effect, the colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and navigated gently around the bends of the colon. As the colonoscope makes its way through the colon, the physician evaluates the colon’s lining for any abnormalities. Typically, the physician looks all the way to the end of the large intestine and back for anything unusual. The entire procedure generally takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
When the procedure is complete, your nurse will take you to recovery, where the sedation quickly wears off. Once you are awake and alert, you will be offered a snack, and your discharge instructions will be reviewed. Even though you will feel fine, the lingering, subtle effects of the sedation will make it dangerous for you to drive, so a responsible adult must accompany you home. You should be able to resume normal activity the next day.
Before you leave, you will be made aware of your exam results and any pending pathology. The findings, along with written discharge instructions, will be sent home with you.
What Can Be Found?
If polyps (abnormal growths of tissue) are found, your doctor can perform a biopsy immediately. Since most colon cancer starts as a benign polyp, when a polyp is removed, the possibility of it turning into cancer is removed as well. The biopsy involves passing an instrument through the scope to remove the polyp, which is then sent to a laboratory to be analyzed.
You will feel nothing when a biopsy or polyp is taken, and there will be no residual pain afterward. While most polyps are harmless, polyps are always sent to the lab afterwards for analysis. After the procedure is complete, you may experience some flatulence or gas that we will encourage you to expel. The gas or air in your intestine is the air used to gently inflate the colon to ensure thorough viewing and has no odor.
How to Prepare
Colonoscopy Preparation: Thorough cleansing of the entire bowel is essential for a thorough evaluation. Instructions for doing this will be given by your provider and are also available here:
To avoid dehydration, patients should drink clear, fat-free bouillon or broth, gelatin, strained fruit juice (no grape juice or any liquid with red color), water, plain and unsweetened coffee or tea, or soda.
Unless otherwise instructed, continue taking any regularly prescribed medication. Your physician may also ask you to stop taking iron preparations a few weeks before the test if you are on them. Your doctor will also want to know if you have heart disease, lung disease, or any medical condition that may need special attention.
You will receive intravenous sedation during this procedure. You will be monitored throughout the entire case. The medications used during the procedure, although relatively short-acting, have subtle, prolonged effects on your reaction/judgment time, thought processes, and wakefulness. You must, therefore, adhere to the following guidelines:
- You must not drive the remainder of the day following your procedure. It is required that a responsible adult be present at the time of discharge to drive you home.
- Please wear glasses; do not wear contacts.
- Leave all jewelry at home, including body piercings.
- It is okay to brush your teeth and wear dentures without glue.
- Please bring a complete list of medications you are currently taking to the facility with you.
- Please allow for at least two hours at the facility.
- No taxis or public transportation unless accompanied by a responsible adult.
- You may NOT walk home.
- If you have small children, arrangements should be made for their care until the next day.
- Do NOT make any important decisions for the entire day of your procedure.
- Please have a responsible adult stay with you overnight. You should not be left unattended. If you have not made such arrangements, your case will be canceled.
We fully expect you will be able to return to your normal activities the day after your procedure, i.e., return to work and drive.
You will receive a call from one of our nurses a few days before your procedure to review your health history and answer any questions you may have. This will also help streamline the admission process on the day of your procedure.
If you develop a fever, rash, cough, or flu-like symptoms in the days before your procedure, please notify our office immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
These colors can “stain” the inside of your colon and make it harder for the doctors to see any abnormalities.
The medications that are listed in your instructions should be taken the morning of your exam, regardless of the color.
It is important that you continue to drink the solution if possible. Without a clean bowel, the doctor will not be able to thoroughly see inside of your colon to complete the examination. You can stop drinking for 30 minutes, then resume. If you do vomit, wait 30-60 minutes then begin drinking the solution again. If not improved, call us and have a phone number of an open pharmacy in case we need to call in a prescription.
Keep drinking and be patient. Move around a bit. Most people have a bowel movement after an hour; however, some patients may take several hours.
Yes, you may have solid stool higher in the colon that needs to be eliminated.
Yes, you must take the entire prep. Your colon is approximately six feet long. The entire colon must be emptied for your physician to see the colon clearly.
If you drank the entire solution or if your last bowel movements were clear enough that you were able to see the bottom of the toilet, you should be fine. It is okay if you have some flecks of material. The yellow color is a result of bile that normally colors the feces. This should not interfere with the examination.
Alcoholic beverages can cause dehydration and some wines thin your blood. Therefore, we strongly suggest that you do not drink any alcoholic beverages prior to your procedure.
You should NOT chew gum, use mints or hard candy during prep.
If you are passing solid or brown stool on the morning of your procedure, call the facility where your appointment is scheduled: Elliot One Day Surgical Center at River's Edge 603-314-5941, or Elliot Endoscopy at Elliot Hospital at 603-663-2170.
Please do. You may brush your teeth and rinse your mouth without swallowing.
Yes, you may wear dentures to the endoscopy suite, but do not use glue. However, if you are having an EGD as well as a colonoscopy, you may be asked to remove them before the procedure.
You may take Tylenol (acetaminophen) as directed.
You can have broth up until eight hours before your procedure; no noodles, chicken, or vegetables are allowed.
Yes, the procedure can still be performed. We ask that you use a tampon if possible, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Yes, you need to take all the prep unless the physician instructs them differently.
As part of our ongoing commitment to excellent care we have joined the NH Colonoscopy Registry. This study characterizes colonoscopy practices, outcomes and their variations for the New Hampshire adult population. The NH Colonoscopy Registry is an important resource in the study of colonoscopy and how to best utilize the screening process in the fight against colorectal cancer. As findings accrue, we will explore their implications leading to a better understanding of practices, and further quality improvement.
Participation in the study is strictly voluntary and all information is confidential.
For more information regarding preparation for your Colonoscopy, please call Elliot Gastroenterology at 603-314-6900 with any questions or concerns.