General Question

deaddolly's avatar

Anyone ever have a colonoscopy? Any advice?

Asked by deaddolly (3431points) October 5th, 2008

My doctor keeps urging me to have one; I keep putting it off. Not so much for the test itself, but for the prep part of it. Ugh. What’s your experience?

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64 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

“Ugh” is right. Just put a pillow and blanket on the bathroom rug and plan to sleep there between “episodes.” Consider it an unpleasant pre-test day and one nasty night and then a quiet room with free drugs and a “procedure” that takes about 20 minutes.

But if all is well, you won’t have to do it for another 10 years. Most people have no discomfort and enjoy the sedation.

Mr_M's avatar

I have a phobia of general anesthesia. Some people tell me you don’t get put out, others say you have to now. I don’t know what to believe.

gailcalled's avatar

It is IV sedation, probably some sort of valium. You are conscious and can see the TV screen with the tube snaking down your intestinal tract, if that is your idea of good TV
. You can see, talk, hear and feel…You need a friend to drive you home.

galileogirl's avatar

Almost a professional, I had 4 between 2001 and 2006. My advice would be to lighten up on your diet a couple of days before the prep night. That way the flushing is not so unpleasant.

In my case all was not well but caught the cancer just in the nick of time so all I needed was surgery. The other benefit was my 4 younger siblings then had colonoscopies, 3 had precancerous polyps.

cooksalot's avatar

Now they knocked my husband out, and he was cancer free Thank The Lord. Just make sure there is someone to drive you home after. Like everyone said the worst part for him was the pretreatment. Most likely because he wasn’t awake for the procedure.

Snoopy's avatar

If you do decide to do it, drink all the stuff….i.e. do the prep the exact way they tell you…

Otherwise, I assure you, that if they get you in there, w/ the little camera shoved up your bum and you aren’t totally cleaned out, they will stop the procedure, and make you reschedule and try again for another day.

i.e. If you do it, do it right.

waterskier2007's avatar

im not sure about how other went. but i was out the whole time for mine. i couldnt see anything. all i remember is i woke up back on the bed and had some stuff to drink and had a great breakfast after

Snoopy's avatar

@MrM Typically it is IV w/ sedation. You are still breathing on your own w/out the tube down your throat (general anesthesia). You might be awake enough to follow simple directions (“scoot over here”) but likely not aware enough to remember much, if anything of the procedure.
The IV access is where they give you the drugs to keep you as sleepy as you and the doctor want you to be…it can be modulated. So if you want to be more “awake” that is something that is possible, as long as the doctors working w/ you are agreeable.

tWrex's avatar

Yeah I agree with @Snoopy. I just had one about a month ago and boy did it hurt, but I’m glad I did everything I was supposed to, because doing it again would have blown bubble gum. The other thing that sucks is if you have to do it with contrast, it makes you wanna puke. Also, it is IV sedation. I was not awake for it at all. They gave me the anesthesia and I guess they gave me fentanyl for pain (which I would have declined had I known because I’ve been addicted to that). I’d do it though. Good luck!

gailcalled's avatar

P.S. I should add that for my family, we have twisted intestines so it is a tad uncomfortable with only sedation. But we just grit our teeth…it’s less painful than childbirth and if the Doc. finds polyps, he can cauteriize them in situ (and that does not hurt.)

JackAdams's avatar

I had one done in 2000. Piece of cake.

They knocked me out and did it, then woke me up.

No problems, and they told me my colon was just fine.

The preparations were “a chore,” but necessary, and I was glad to find out that I was OK, in that area.

Not knowing, is worse than knowing.

augustlan's avatar

I had to do the same “prep work” before my hysterectomy. It was most unpleasant. On the upside though, I felt fantastic after I was all cleaned out. It made me understand why people get high colonics! Not that I’d repeat the process, unless necessary.

rowenaz's avatar

I went hiking ALL DAY the day of my prep work. It was NO PROBLEM. Did I mention that I am FAT and LOVE FOOD??

Good luck, and I hope you feel better soon.

Noon's avatar

Just had one done a week ago. (yeah, there you go for recent) The worst part is the prep work. Just take that whole day off. And I won’t lie it sucks. But I mean, get a good book, or laptop in the can with you, and stock up on jello. And really it’s not a whole day if you don’t include the fasting. Sure you can’t eat, but you get over that. Then at 4pm you start drinking the 4 liters of liquid, and you drink it fast. 8oz every 15 mins is no joke. It’s like, glass, bathroom, and then right back for another glass. Then another 4 hours to make sure it’s all out of your system. Then you go to sleep. So yeah, a really bad 8 hours, but not the worst in your life.

The actual procedure is done (at least I was told) in a way that you are not actually out, but you will have little to no memory of the procedure. I have a few flashes of memory of the procedure, but nothing clear really.

All in all, a crappy day (no pun intended) but it beats what they would have to do if you start to develop cancer, or have an undiagnosed bowl condition.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I have worked in an endoscopy unit and had a colononscopy. For various reasons I had the procedure without sedation and found the experience OK, definately no worse than say bad wind. Incidently you can relieve the pain at anytime during the procedure yourself just by passing wind. In my opinion the level of discomfort during the procedure is related to the skill and experience of the doctor or nurse performing the exam.

The sedation typically given (here in the UK any way) is midazolam and fentanyl. The idea is to get you drowsy but not actually knock you out.

As for the prep ask if they can prescribe a low residue meal replacement kit as well as the actual bowel prep. Remember to drink plenty of fluids while you are taking the bowel prep (1. it will work much better and 2. you won’t feel as bad). Also try to take all the bowel prep no matter how bad it tastes as if you have a poor prep and they can’t see the lining of the bowel they may miss something and might ask you to come back and have the whole thing done again. Apparantly in 25% of colonoscopies the bowel prep is so poor there is a serious risk of missing stuff.

Finally most people report that the whole thing wasn’t as bad as they imagined.

rowenaz's avatar

I was out during the procedure. Yeah, it’s not the fasting that’s hard, it’s the night before after you drink the disgusting liquid.

gailcalled's avatar

since no one’s mentioned it….colonoscopy.

I’d like to be knocked out, so I will reask this question in 18 months.

Lightlyseared's avatar

ga for gail just realized I misspelled it, good grief, I hang my head in shame and then blame the iPhone

Comedian's avatar

You could always go to las vegas like they do in Two and a Half Men lol. Well they try to go…I guess you just have to watch it lol.

gailcalled's avatar

@lightlyseared; your spelling seems fine. I was waiting for someone to notice the original question.

@Comedian; what’s Las Vegas have to do with anything? And two “lols”? Is that twice as funny as one?

Lightlyseared's avatar

@gail I put an extra n in there I’m afraid

deaddolly's avatar

Re; spelling it’s colonascopy on google!!! Who cares….

ANYWAY, THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR INFORMATION!!!! I’ve been putting it off, but guess I’ll have to do it. Ugh.

Thanks again!

gailcalled's avatar

dd: Just do it. (Google has it misspelled in a dozen sites- you are right. But it also asks “Do you mean colonoscopy?) Given the errors the medical profession is prone to these days, there may be another horrible procedure spelled colonascopy that you may not need.

@lightlyseared: so much for my proof-reading. We both need new glasses; colononscopy

deaddolly's avatar

yes…you never know!

I know, I’ll schedule it. Argh….

gailcalled's avatar

dd: It is not too bad…you forget the unpleasant parts, just like women with more than one child forget some of the moments of labor and childbirth.

deaddolly's avatar

it’s always the anticipation of something for me. I can get myself all worked up, ususally for nothing!

gailcalled's avatar

I do know something about that. I have been trying for decades to reprogram my central nervous system, but so far, nothing works. So I waste huge amounts of energy working myself into a state and then wonder afterwards why I was so stupid.

deaddolly's avatar

@gailcalled same here. Tho, sometimes it’s the opposite. I love my dentist, but recently had an implant put in. He took a mallet to hit my tooth….then the hygenist was supposed to squirt water in my mouth and hit the air instead…bits of my bloody gum tissue flew out all over the wall and even landed on my daughter’s homework (she was there with me). While I didn’t feel any pain then; it’s kinda put me off all dentistry for awhile!

wundayatta's avatar

I had to drink a gallon for the prep. I’m told there’s a prep that only involves a quart. Docs use different preps. Ask for the small version if you can.

When this topic came up on AV, someone said that they never use sedation in Germany, and the Germans think we’re wimps. I think it’s just part of the make more money for doctors movement in the US.

If you do have one, and you are a heterosexual male, you want my surgeon. My god was she beautiful. They’re putting me under and I’m busy flirting—wearing nothing but a hospital gown, and the woman I’m flirting with is about to investigate…. well, you know.

Snoopy's avatar

@daloon perhaps that is why sedation is used by US Drs :)

Lightlyseared's avatar

@daloon There is actually a growing trend for colonoscopies to be preformed without sedation. If the bowel is inflated with carbon dioxide instead of air it causes much less pain. There is also new technology which alows the encoscopist to see the shape of the scope while it is in the bowel means that the scope is less likely to form loops during the procedure which are what cause most of the pain. These two things combined mean it is possible to perform the procedure without causing much discomfort, as for the embarassament thats a differnet story.

Mr_M's avatar

I have seen on television this past weekend how they have a CAMERA PILL that you swallow and the doctor can see everything INCLUDING the esophagus, etc.

That sounds like what I’m looking for! Does anyone know anything about it?

cooksalot's avatar

You’ve been watching “The Doctor’s”! Cool isn’t it?

Snoopy's avatar

@Mr M I have seen that as well….my question/concern about that device would be that as it “spins/slides” its way down the colon, it would seem that at any given time it could be facing away from a problem spot and it could be missed…?

Mr_M's avatar

@cooks, No. It was on local news recently.

@snoopy, good point. I wonder how they get around it.

cooksalot's avatar

It actually looked like the camera is enclosed in the capsule then the doctor can control the camera.

Mr_M's avatar

I don’t think so. I believe they send you HOME with some sort of monitor.

Lightlyseared's avatar

OK capsule endoscopy is used to view the small intestine to search for causes of bleeding after a patient has had both an OGD (EGD for Americans) and colonoscopy. An OGD looks at the oesophagus the stomach and the deuodenum. Because m.less than 5% of gastro intestinal abnormalities originate in the small bowel capsule endoscopy is a second line investigation.

A sensor array is attached to the abdomen and the patient is asked to swallow a capsule camera. It transmits 2 images a second (one from either end of the capsule) and the doctor has no control over it. The procedure can take 8 hours so patients are sent home with the array attached and then come back at the end of the day to return the data box (except in one case when police mistook the data capture box for a suicide bomb vest).

The images are then transferred to a computer to be reviewed which is both time consuming and the abilty to focus for long periods of time. As @snoopy mentioned it can miss things basded on dumb luck alone.

Complications include the capsule splitting open and leaking battery stuff into you, not coming out the other end and ending up in the lungs. Also the capsule is pretty big and some people find it impossible to swallow.

galileogirl's avatar

Ooh. That must be really new. About 10 years ago when they needed to look at the upper GI tract, they would do a procedure called an ERCP where they shoved a camera from the top down without sedation-gag-and they could also send down a sharp instrument to do a roto-rooter job

Snoopy's avatar

@lightlyseared Um, are they any documentated cases of it actually ending up in the lungs? If it that large, it seems like the camera would be very difficult to aspirate. No?

(thanks for all of the info. very informative)

Lightlyseared's avatar

An ERCP is not an examination of the GI tract as such. It looks as the common bile duct for stones or anything else that could block the flow of bile. The test that looks at the upper GI tract is an OGD.

@snoopy the capsule camera is about the size of a large tablet so not that big. Yes they do end up in the lung you’d be amazed what people get stuck there without even trying.

Snoopy's avatar

(coughing nervously)

Mr_M's avatar

@lightly, when it DOES wind up in the lungs, then what do they have to do?

Lightlyseared's avatar

They go down into the lungs with a bronchoscope and a fishing net. (It really looks like a fishing net!!)

amanderveen's avatar

I’ve heard reports saying that people should be tested more often since bowel cancers are often overlooked until they’re too advanced to effectively treat. Does anyone know how to tell if you might need a colonoscopy in the first place? To those who’ve had them, what led to you getting tested?

galileogirl's avatar

The most common symptom for early detection has to do with blood loss/anemia. A major reason they go undetected is tat colon cancer appears most often after 45 when we think that weakness and loss of energy is brushed off as just getting older. I had always been borderline anemic (as many women are at certain times in their cycle) and when it slowly got worse over time and a noninvasive test showed no blood loss, the Dr treated methrough diet and supplements. The cancer was found after an unrelated issue was diagnosed.

The simple answer is that there are few remarkable symptoms until the cancer spreads beyond the colon. By then it is often too late.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The risk bowel cancer increase with age, if you are under 40 it is rare (but not unknown) and most cases (90%) are in people over 50.

Things to look out for include any changes is bowel habit (constipated or diarrhea) passing mucous in your stool, passing blood (particularly if it is mixed with stool and not just on the toilet paper), abdominal discomfort and abdominal pain. Any of those things warrant a visit to the doctors. I know its embarrassing but caught early colon cancer is very treatable. My dad had it, had surgery, no problem.

There is a test called a fecal occult blood test to look for blood in the stool

Strauss's avatar

When I had my first (about 20 years ago) I barely remember the procedure. I was awake (sort of…) and remember watching the monitor. Doc found a few polyps, removed them, and they tested negative for cancer.

My late Mom died from colon cancer, my sis has Krohn’s, so with my family history I would rather go through a couple days of discomfort every 5 years or so, and hope for early enough detection of anything like that.

ratboy's avatar

It’s unwise to be a tight ass when it comes to colonoscopy.

beachwriter's avatar

Whoa, look at all the replies to this. So that’s where our minds are. Here is a copy of Dave Barry’s famous colonscopy article. SO worth the read:

FWIW, there are a couple of different methods of anaesthesia. I had the one they call “milk of amnesia.” Didn’t feel a thing and woke up completely happy.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@beachwriter the “milk” is propofol (the stuff that killed Michael Jackson). Not surprised that you didn’t feel anything but probably overkill for a colonoscopy.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Make sure they’re going to give you the heavy sedation and you’ll be fine. It’s not fun, but with valium in the mix you won’t remember much anyway.

CaptainHarley's avatar

They have a drug that makes you forget everything from moment to moment. You can respond to instructions, but have no memory of them the very next second.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@CaptainHarley That’s the valium (diazepam) that does that.

plethora's avatar

If you are a heterosexual guy, think twice before having a buddy take you there and drive you home. I have never had the slightest doubt about my sexual identity. Had a buddy take me, thinking he could go do whatever until he came to pick me up. NOT SO. They assume he is your “partner”, call him when they are done, tell him everything is ok, show him the friggin pictures of your interior guts, roll you out in a wheelchair so he can pick you up. Very embarrassing!!!!

jazmina88's avatar

I woke up during a colon scope in 03. it was horrible. I cried 10 minutes in recovery. medical rape… my eyes. I was puking blood.

MarthaStewart's avatar

I had no problem with mine. The prep was annoying but not awful. Nothing but clear liquids and jello for a while, medicines to flush everything out, then an enema. The colonoscopy itself was not bad, they administered a light sedative and I watched progress on the screen which was kind of interesting, and it really wasn’t painful at all. I think though that this is one of those procedures you really want done by a seasoned professional, not a first year resident. One thing most people realize after their first colonoscopy is seeing rough pockets in the walls of the colon, we wish we had heeded the warnings to eat more bran and fiber.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If you value your life and health, then do the prep without fear or disgust and be grateful you have access to such a diagnostic test. Every year people die unnecessarily because they avoided or could not afford the test.

Attention men out there: The same goes for prostate exams. Just get it done.

johnsonms215's avatar

Just had one done today. The prep is no fun but I got through it. Laxatives and gatorade. Lots of trips to the potty. Knocked out for the procedure and woke up fine. It was worth it to find out that everything is ok. You need to set your mind to it and JUST DO IT. You will be glad you did. It is very important. Good luck. :)

CaptainHarley's avatar


No, it’s not Valium, but I can’t remember the name. It’s a relatively new drug and it works by blocking short-term memory somehow.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Good advice on the Prostate Exam. I went in for a long overdue physical and my PSA was elevated ( about 120 ). They did a biopsy of my prostate and found cancer. I had my prostate removed in 2005. It was traumatic, I can’t deny that, but at least the cancer hadn’t spread too badly. I’m still on cancer drugs and have had radiation twice, but I’m still here.

Go get the damned PSA checked ASAP, especially if you’re over 45 and/or there’s a history of prostate cancer in your family. ( Mine was from Agent Orange exposure from when I was in Vietnam for two years. )

Lightlyseared's avatar

@CaptainHarley it was probably midazolam (Versed I think is the brand name most often used in the US). It’s fun talking to a patient on that stuff as every 2 minutes or so you end up back at the start of the conversation and it plays out eaxctly the same as it did last time round. It’s like groundhog day.

crazyguy's avatar

My healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, recommends the procedure starting at age 60, and then every 10 years after that. I am now 73 and have never had a colonoscopy. It is one less thing to worry about. My diet is essentially free of red meat; my wife and I do indulge in fish about 2–3 times per week. And I eat chicken occasionally. Other than those incidents we are essentially vegetarian. I believe (I am not a doctor) that diet is an important factor in colon cancer causation.

kritiper's avatar

Haven’t had one. No insurance. Can’t afford to get one or treat anything if they found something.

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