Getting ready for your first colonoscopy? Wondering what to expect? Rest assured that this routine procedure is generally associated with minimal-to-no pain or discomfort and requires nothing more than rest and relaxation in the short recovery period.

Understanding colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is a minimally invasive method performed by a medical specialist for examining and sometimes treating the large intestine, also referred to as the colon. The procedure is performed by introducing a special type of camera called a colonoscope through the rectum and advancing it along some or most of the length of the rectum. This special device also includes a small channel through which the healthcare provider can take tissue samples if needed. In order to improve visibility, the colonoscope also allows the introduction of small amounts of gas into the colon.

Prep, procedure and aftercare: the three steps of colonoscopy

In order for the healthcare provider to best visualize the tissues and structure of the colon, a process of bowel preparation is required prior to colonoscopy. This generally involves being on a clear liquid diet along with the use of a prescribed preparation or the day prior to the procedure to clean out the colon. This process is painless but may cause some discomfort associated with an increased frequency of bowel movements during that day.

None of the sensations associated with colonoscopy vary significantly from those experienced during normal functioning of the bowels. Although the procedure would otherwise be associated with a tolerable level of pain and discomfort, anesthetics are used during colonoscopy to enhance patient comfort. Thanks to the use of special anesthetics that allow conscious sedation, also referred to as “awake sedation,” most patients remember little if any of the procedure or any associated discomfort.

If a patient were to remain fully aware during a colonoscopy, he or she would notice a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen with a sensation similar to a strong need to have a bowel movement. This is a natural reaction of the body to the presence of the colonoscope in the colon. An awake patient would also likely report some abdominal cramping with a sensation similar to bloating or “feeling gassy.” This is caused by the gas introduced into the colon during the procedure.

The procedure itself does not require any recovery time. However, the anesthetic used during colonoscopy can cause some lingering drowsiness. This makes it important to have friends or family members available to drive patients home after the procedure. Patients should also plan to spend the remainder of the day relaxing. During those hours of post-anesthesia recovery, there may be a bit of residual bloating until any gas remaining from the procedure passes naturally from the body.

Protecting and enhancing your digestive health with colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is an indispensable tool to help detect and treat some of the most common causes of cancer and digestive tract disease. While this article is intended to be informational, it cannot replace professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns around colonoscopy or other digestive health issues, please contact a medical professional in your area.

Consider choosing Digestive Care Physicians for all your digestive health screening and treatment needs. The Digestive Care Physicians team includes three board-certified doctors and a physician’s assistant who serve the greater Atlanta area from their four locations in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, and Dawsonville. Digestive Care Physicians also welcomes patients from the surrounding areas of Buford, Gainesville, Sugar Hill, Woodstock, Norcross, Lilburn, Winder, Mountain Park, Duluth, Roswell and beyond.

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