What is Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy or Lower Endoscopy is a visual examination of the colon (large intestine).

Before the procedure

A preparation kit is supplied to you. It contains full instructions. Usually this involves a special diet (avoiding foods that contain nuts, whole grains, skins or seeds), for three days prior to the examination, lots of clear fluids and laxatives the day before the procedure.

How is Colonoscopy Performed?

A long flexible instrument is passed through the rectum and around the colon. Through this the doctor will be able to look for any abnormalities that may be present. A variety of procedures may be carried out through the colonoscope e.g. biopsies or removal of polyps.

Cancer of the large bowel may arise from pre-existing benign polyps. If polyps are found at the time of examination then they will be removed to prevent their subsequent change to cancers. For the majority of polyps this involves placing a snare wire around the base of the polyps and using electric current to remove the polyp.

Risks associated with Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy can result in complications such as reactions to medication, perforation of the intestine and bleeding. These complications are very rare (less than 1 in 3000 examinations) but may require urgent treatment or even an operation. The risks are slightly higher when the colonoscope is used to apply treatment such as removing polyps. In the unlikely event of haemorrhage occurring, blood transfusion may be necessary.

Complications of sedation are uncommon and are usually avoided by administering oxygen during the procedure and monitoring oxygen levels in the blood. In patients with severe cardiac or chest disease, serious sedation reactions can rarely occur.

A number of rare side effects can occur with any endoscopic procedure. Death is a remote possibility with any interventional procedure. If you wish to have full details of rare complications, or if you have any reservations or wish to discuss the matter further please inform the nursing staff before your procedure.