Is Colonoscopy Painful? What to Expect?

Reviewed on 9/29/2020

Is colonoscopy painful?

Colonoscopy is a medical procedure to examine the inside of the large bowel
Colonoscopy is a medical procedure to examine the inside of the large bowel

Modern techniques of colonoscopy are not painful or uncomfortable. The person being examined is given sedation to make them relaxed and not feel any pain during the procedure. The modern-day colonoscopes are thin and flexible, which makes the procedure comfortable for the person being examined.

You may feel some pressure as the colonoscope moves inside the bowel. There may be brief cramps and gas pains when air is inserted or the colonoscope is advanced. This lasts for a short while and one can get relief by passing gas.

What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a medical procedure to examine the inside of the large bowel (colon). It is done with the help of a long, thin, and flexible tube-like instrument that carries a camera and a light source at one end (colonoscope). A colonoscopy is a common procedure done on an outpatient basis. It helps to diagnose various bowel (gastrointestinal) conditions presenting as bleeding, abdominal pain, or change in bowel habits. A piece of tissue (biopsy) can also be removed with the help of the colonoscope for diagnostic purposes. Removal of colorectal polyps (small clumps of tissue formed in the inner lining of the large bowel) can also be done with the help of colonoscopy. The removal of polyps is essential as they may later turn into colon cancer.

How is a colonoscopy done?

Colonoscopy may be done at the doctor’s office or in the outpatient department of a medical center or hospital.

Before the procedure

Your doctor may:

  • Order some blood tests and imaging studies (such as X-ray, CT scan, and MRI)
  • Ask you about any chronic health conditions
  • Ask you about any medications that you are on
  • Ask about any allergies that you may have
  • Explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications, and address your doubts and concerns related to it
  • Obtain your written consent
  • Explain to you the steps for bowel cleansing (bowel preparation). The steps for bowel preparation include:
  1. Using enemas
  2. Not eating solid foods for 1 to 3 days before the test
  3. Taking laxatives
  • Ask you to drink plenty of clear liquids for 1 to 3 days before the test. Clear fluids include water, clear coffee or tea, gelatin, fat-free bouillon or broth, sports drinks without added color, and strained fruit juices

During the test

  • You will be asked to wear a hospital gown.
  • An intravenous line will be attached, and sedative will be administered. This will make you comfortable and pain-free during the procedure.
  • You will lie on your left side with your knees drawn up towards your chest.
  • The doctor will gently insert the colonoscope through the anus. The colonoscope will be slowly advanced up to the lowest part of the small bowel.
  • Air is inserted through the colonoscope for a better view of the inside.
  • Suction may be done for removing fluid or stool.
  • The scope will be slowly moved out as the doctor examines the inside of the bowel while withdrawing it.
  • Your doctor may remove small tissue samples (biopsy) or polyps using tiny tools inserted through the colonoscope.
  • Therapeutic procedures, such as laser therapy, may be done if needed during the procedure.
  • Photographs of the inside of the bowel may be taken by the camera at the end of the colonoscope.

After the procedure

You may feel mild cramps in the abdomen and pass a lot of gas. There may be some bloating or the feeling of being sick to your stomach. This will soon go away.

You will be able to go home about an hour after the test. You will need someone’s help to take you home due to the effect of sedatives.


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