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Digestive health centre

Colonoscopy basics

Colonoscopy uses a flexible camera tube to examine the lining of the bowel wall.

The device is passed into the bowel through the rectum to help diagnose and treat diseases of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

A colonoscopy may be use to evaluate many problems, including:

It is often used to treat certain diseases.

  • Bleeding from diverticula or other lesions can be treated by injecting medicine around them or by applying heat to cauterise -- or seal -- them.
  • Polyps, some of which may be cancerous, can be removed using a lasso-like device through the colonoscope.
  • Narrowed areas or strictures can often be dilated using a balloon.

How is a colonoscopy performed?

Digestive Problems - Colonoscopy

The colonoscopy is performed by an experienced doctor and lasts approximately 30-60 minutes. You will receive medication to make you feel relaxed. You will be asked to lie on your left side on the examining table. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a colonoscope, a long, flexible, tubular instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter that transmits an image of the lining of the colon so the doctor can examine it for any abnormalities. The colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine.

The scope bends, so the doctor can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the doctor move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the doctor to see.

You may feel mild cramping during the procedure. You can reduce the cramping by taking several slow, deep breaths during the procedure. When the doctor has inserted the colonoscope fully, it is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is carefully examined.

During the colonoscopy, if the doctor sees something that may be abnormal, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (called a biopsy) and abnormal growths, or polyps, can be identified and removed. In many cases, colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment without the need for a major operation.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

After you have a colonoscopy:

  • You will stay in a recovery room for about 30 minutes for observation.
  • You may feel some cramping or a sensation of having wind, but this usually passes quickly.
  • You will need to have a responsible adult drive you home, as it is unsafe to drive or operate machinery for about 8 hours after the procedure (due to the sedative medication given).
  • You can resume your normal diet.
  • Read your discharge instructions carefully. Certain medications, such as blood-thinning agents, may need to be avoided temporarily if biopsies were taken or polyps were removed.

Warning about colonoscopy

Bleeding and puncture of the colon are rare but possible complications of colonoscopy. Call the hospital or clinic immediately, or seek urgent medical advice if you have:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 08, 2014

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