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A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows the Consultant to look at the lining of the large bowel (colon). It allows the Consultant to check the bowel for any abnormalities such as inflammation, polyps etc. A long flexible tube/scope (thinner than your finger) with a light and a camera inside is passed through the rectum into the bowel.

Colonoscopy is a safe procedure, and complications are rare but can occur: Bleeding can occur from biopsies or the removal of polyps (0.3-6.1%), but it is usually minimal and can be controlled. The colonoscope can cause a tear or hole in the colon. This is a serious problem, but it does not happen commonly. (1:1000 patients and 2:1000 post polypectomy). These complications may require urgent medical treatment or surgical intervention ( operation), which can carry risk to life and health.

You may continue to take essential medication, but if you are taking anticoagulants such as warfarin or newer blood-thinning medicines, you should receive/seek specific advice from your doctor when the test is being organised. Iron tablets should be stopped one week before the examination. If you have any concerns about your diabetes, you should contact the Unit for advice before you attend for your test.

  • The scheduling of your procedure is an approximate estimate, and unfortunately, there can be unforeseen delays.
  • You will be given a laxative drink the day prior to your procedure or on the morning of the procedure.
  • Please take this drink in accordance with the dietary instructions provided.
  • Please fast from food from 12 midnight.
  • Please continue to drink water for up to 2 hours prior to admission.
  • If you have a referral letter from your doctor, present this to the secretary on arrival.
  • Bring details of private medical insurance.
  • Contact your insurance company prior to admission to confirm your level of cover.
  • Bring a list of current medications.
  • Do not bring jewellery or large sums of money.
  • If under 16 years you must be accompanied by your parent or guardian, who is required to give written consent.
  • You will have sedation for this procedure, so you must be accompanied home
  • You will not be allowed to take a taxi home alone.
  • A nurse will be with you at all times.
  • You will be asked to lie on your left side.
  • An intravenous injection ( sedation and a pain-relieving medication) is given into the vein to make you feel relaxed and sleepy but not unconscious. This is not a general anaesthetic.
  • A monitor will be placed on your finger to assess heart rate and oxygen levels, and your blood pressure will be measured every few minutes using a blood pressure cuff on your arm.
  • The doctor passes the scope through your rectum and into your bowel.
  • Air will be passed into the bowel via the scope, which can cause some cramping but usually passes quickly.
  • When the procedure is finished, the scope is removed.

If you use a wheelchair or have a physical or any other disability please contact us to let us know in advance so that we can ensure you receive the appropriate supports.

  • You will be observed in the day ward until the effects of the sedation have worn off. The cannula will be removed from your arm before you go home.
  • If you have not received sedation, you may go home as soon as follow-up instructions have been given and may resume all normal activities immediately.
  • Further tests may be requested by the consultant. These tests may be completed on the same day of your examination, or a future appointment date will be given.
  • When you have sufficiently recovered, you will receive a light snack.

You may experience minor discomfort such as cramps or bloating post procedure. These usually settle within 24 hours. Your nurse will advise you of further instructions or follow-up pre-discharge.

If you have had sedation, you must not drink alcohol or drive until the following day, and you must be accompanied home.


Seek medical attention immediately if:

  • You begin to vomit or have black bowel motions
  • You develop severe nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.

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