Information for Patients
WHY IS A COLONOSCOPY PERFORMED?
Colonoscopy looks at the lining of the entire large bowel. This enables the surgeon to rule out serious problems. Polyps (small benign growths) can be removed. For the patient with incontinence it is important to rule out inflammation of the bowel, which is excluded by taking tiny samples of the bowel lining (biopsies).
WHAT PREPARATION IS REQUIRED FOR THIS TEST?
Colonoscopy needs a strong laxative taken 12- 24 hours beforehand. The medication and instructions will be given directly to you by your consultant, or sent to you in the post. Colonoscopy is usually performed with sedation. Download the PDF for detailed information about how to prepare for your colonoscopy.
WHY HAPPENS DURING THE TEST?
You will be given an injection of light sedative which will relax you and make it easier for the consultant to carry out the colonoscopy. You will be asked to lie on your side. The surgeon will pass the colonoscope (a narrow tube with a camera and light source at the end) into your bowel through the anus and will view the lining of your bowel on a screen. He or she may take biopsies. The test will normally last around half an hour.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE TEST?
The surgeon will normally discuss the results of the test with you immediately after it is performed. Biopsy results will usually take a couple of weeks to come through. You will be able to leave hospital as soon as you feel well enough, usually after about 3 hours. It is essential that you do not drive, operate machinery or sign important documents for 24 hours after taking the sedation and it is advisable to arrange for someone to stay with you overnight after the test.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THIS TEST?
This is a very routine test. The most important but rare complication is that of perforation. This is when the instrument makes a hole in the bowel wall. It occurs in around 1:1000 colonoscopies. This is potentially serious and often needs an operation.