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What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is one of the most common tests used on possible IBS sufferers. Doctors use a small camera to check on the health of your colon and small intestine.

To rule out other bowel conditions and diseases and diagnose IBS, your doctor may request that you have an endoscopy known as a colonoscopy. This will allow him/her to closely examine your bowel. It is a routine procedure and nothing to feel anxious about.

The colonoscopy lets the doctor identify inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcers, and bleeding. The doctor can check on the health of the entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the exam. The doctor will insert a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a colonoscope.

The colonoscope transmits an image of the inside of the colon, so the doctor can carefully examine the lining of the colon. 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 physician move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which inflates the colon and helps the physician see better.

If anything abnormal is seen in your colon, like a polyp or inflamed tissue, the doctor can remove all or part of it using tiny instruments passed through the scope. That tissue (biopsy) is then sent to a lab for testing. If there is bleeding in the colon, the doctor can pass a laser, heater probe, or electrical probe, or can inject special medicines through the scope and use it to stop the bleeding.

A colonoscopy takes 30 to 60 minutes. The sedative and pain medicine should keep you from feeling much discomfort during the exam. You will need to remain at the colonoscopy facility for one to two hours until the sedative wears off.

How do you prepare for a colonoscopy?

Your colon must be completely empty for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe. To prepare for the procedure you may have to follow a liquid diet for one to three days beforehand. A liquid diet means things like strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea, or diet soda. Gelatin or Popsicles in any color but red may also be eaten.

You will also take one of several types of laxatives the night before the procedure. Also, you must arrange for someone to take you home afterward after the colonoscopy has finished - you will not be allowed to drive because of the sedatives. Your doctor may give you other special instructions. Inform your doctor of any medical conditions or medications that you take before the colonoscopy.

What results will I have if I am suffering from IBS?

If you are suffering from IBS then the doctors will not usually find any abnormalities or bleeding during the colonoscopy - there are no visible signs of IBS. However, the test will allow the doctors to rule out other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

colonoscopy experiences

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although some people find these tests uncomfortable and occasionally painful, they are vital diagnostic tools. I would always recommend having any and all of these tests if they are recommended by your doctor. You should also make sure you follow your doctor's preparation instructions carefully.

The tale of...Gail

Hello everyone, I had a colonoscopy this morning. Two days before the test, I ate lightly because I figured the less in, the less out when I had to drink the Golytely. The day before the test, I didn't have to drink the whole gallon because there wasn't too much left in me.

I was very nervous once I got to the hospital. The nurse assured me I would be asleep and would not feel anything, nor would I be aware of what was happening. Once the doctor came in, I sought confirmation from him as well that I wouldn't feel anything. He said 'There will be some discomfort involved'.

At that point I wanted to jerk the IV out and run like hell. But the nurse told me 'I'm in charge of your medications, trust me, you won't feel a thing'. It concerned me that the nurse and doctor were not in agreement. Then it struck me. Was it possible I would feel some discomfort but the Versed sedative would wipe out the memory of it? I had read that Versed could do that.

They hooked me up to all the monitors, turned me on my left side, and administered the anesthesia which was to produce conscious sedation. Within a minute or less I was out. Completely. If I did have any pain or pressure, I wasn't aware of it. It was exactly like being under general anesthesia but without the breathing tube.

So as it turns out, the worst part of this was having to drink the Golytely! By the way, they found one polyp and snipped it out to send to the lab. Even when they did this, it didn't hurt and I had no awareness of it. I'm to call next week for the lab results. So, don't be afraid to get this done, it's a breeze and can save your life.

The tale of...Carolyn

I remember my colonoscopy, it was in October 2002. I had it the same time as my endoscopy. They sedated me - they told me it was just enough to make me drowsy but I fell asleep. I can't remember much apart from at one stage they told me to turn over and I said 'You just hurt me then', after that I just remember coming round. The nurses were great and I even got to see my results before they were put in an envelope to go to my GP.

All the tests came back normal. So after all that they said I had IBS as they couldn't pinpoint anything else. But I haven't had any follow-up to see whether anything has deteriorated or improved.

The tale of...Jan

I have had a lot of sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies and the worst part has always been the prep the day before. Each time I had it done the doctor would instruct me to drink a gallon of liquid mixture the evening before. I had two hours to get it down. Then the fun began. Nausea, cramps, pain, sweating, crying, the works.

It would go on and on and I'd be in the bathroom for hours, sometimes way into the middle of the night. By the time I got up in the morning to do my two Fleet enemas I would be so stressed and upset I could hardly relax. That is not a good condition to be in right before going in for a medical test.

But the last time I had a colonoscopy I had to see a different doctor in the clinic because mine was booked up. And I am so thankful that happened. That doctor gave me some advice that made the whole prep so easy I couldn't believe it. He gave me the same gallon of stuff to drink, only he told me to start sipping on it in the morning of the day before the procedure, not in the evening all at once.

Wow! What a difference that made! I mean, think about it. Who normally drinks a gallon of water in a two-hour period anyway? If you do you are going to feel sick. Now top that off with the fact that the water is full of stuff to get your insides moving and no wonder everyone is hugging the toilet at both ends.

His point was that the purpose was to clean you out. So however that is done makes no difference. So here's what I did that made it all so easy...

I ate light meals or soup two days before the test. Then one day before the test I only ate liquid boullion, jello and Popsicles (not red) as instructed all day. Starting at around nine that same morning I poured a small amount of the prep into a glass and drank it. I used a straw that I put way back into my mouth so the stuff would go down my throat without tasting it.

The first time I took the drink it made me feel a little yucky but that was all. Then about a half hour later I took another small portion of the prep and this time within about five minutes I needed to use the bathroom. But guess what? No pain or cramps. I just knew I needed to get in there, ha, but nothing stressful or fearful about it.

I did that for the rest of the day. Every half hour or so I'd drink a small amount of the prep and then use the bathroom. It was very easy, no cramping, sweating, nausea, etc, and by the evening I'd drunk most of the prep and was cleaned out. I could go to bed as normal and get a good night's sleep.

The test itself is the easiest part. They put an IV in you to give you the sedative (painless) and then when the doctor is ready they start running the sedative into the IV. You are out in just a minute or so. If, for some reason, you are still 'aware' (but you won't care), ha, you can ask to have more sedative so you are totally out. I always feel so free and relaxed afterwards and wish I could feel that 'normal' all the time.

The tale of...Patel

I was having stomach troubles for nearly eight months and was told that I would need not only a colonoscopy but also an endoscopy as well. Besides giving birth to two kids, I have never been to a hospital for any other problems, so the whole idea of a doctor probing a long tube into me was very scary.

I finally got the courage to go through with the testing. The day before my test I found this website on google and boy am I glad I did. It relieved me and helped me get over my fears of having these tests done. I will be honest and tell you that the solution you have to drink the day before is probably the worst thing you will drink in your life.

The actual test of the colonoscopy is not as bad as you may think and you will not feel a thing. I couldn't believe that the test was actually over and asked the nurse twice if she was sure I was done. Because I was sedated I was a bit drowsy afterwards and had a slight headache but that didn't last very long.

The moral of my experience is please don't be afraid of these tests. They are simple and painless and you won't regret having them done. My results came out negative but I'm so glad I went through with it. Good luck!

The tale of...M

The procedure was not bad at all. They put me out entirely and woke me up when it was done. They took a biopsy to rule out any problems, and it was painless. The fluid I had to drink the night prior did cause some problems: drinking it was not so bad but it took a few hours for it to start to work, which put me in agony. It was supposed to start working within 30 minutes of drinking it. Once it took effect I spent the remainder of the night in the bathroom.

My suggestion is to make sure you will be fully sedated so it is not a bad experience, and make sure the solution you drink is very cold so that it does not taste as bad. I forget to mention that I have a very low pain threshold and a high tolerance to sedatives. I made certain that EVERY single person who was treating me was aware of that fact.

I was quite pleased to discover that the sedative that they were going to provide me with was a shot of Demerol. I was told that the procedure including the additional biopsies would take about 35 minutes. I remember very little of it. I had a brief bit of pain on two occasions when they were pumping air into my large intestine. Other than that I did not feel a thing. I was quite grateful for this as I have been lied to on other occasions when doctors were performing a surgical procedure on my person and assured me that I had been properly anesthetized when in fact I was not.

I actually watched some of the colonoscopy on the monitor that was beside my bed. I watched one of the biopsies and was thrilled that I did not feel any pain when the snake-like device cut a piece of my bowel lining away from my intestinal wall. Oh and one more thing, as is the case with most or all IBS patients, after the procedure the doctor told me that my intestines and rectum looked great - no polyps or anything else that would indicate that anything was wrong.

Sort of reminds me of my science methodology course in university where we learned that often doctors/surgeons cannot find any abnormalities in physiology due to the fact that they do not know what they are looking for, are looking in the wrong place, or are not using a strong enough magnifying instrument.