A colonoscopy is a procedure wherein an endoscope, a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end, is inserted into the body for examination. It involves insertion through the anus to examine the large bowel (colon). Colonoscopy is a powerful tool for the diagnosis and management of IBD. It allows your doctor to examine your digestive tract internally for signs of IBD (e.g., inflammation, ulcers, bleeding), IBD-related complications (e.g., strictures), and can also help monitor for signs of abnormal cell growth associated with bowel cancers (dysplasia). The significant benefits of colonoscopy come at a small cost. They are less convenient from a patient’s point of view compared to other examination methods (e.g., ultrasound, physical exam), as they require a thorough preparation process in the lead up to the procedure, and potentially taking time off work.

Colonoscopy requires the patient fast and consume a large quantity of a liquid laxative preparation the day prior to the procedure. This clears the digestive tract of waste, which allows your doctor to get a clear view of your gut. Before the procedure begins, you will be administered a sedating drug to induce relaxation. Although you will not be asleep, you will have limited or no memory of the procedure.

After the sedative is administered, the procedure begins and the endoscope is inserted through the anus and into the colon. The endoscope can inflate the colon using air, which allows for a better view. Your doctor may also take biopsies (i.e., small tissue samples) during the procedure, which are later examined under a microscope for signs of inflammation. Due to sedation, you cannot drive yourself home afterwards, and it may take some time for the sedation to fully wear off. As such, you cannot drive, drink, make legal decisions or operate heavy machinery in the 24 hours afterwards. It is also advised that you take the day off work, due to residual sedative effects.

Other things to note

  • Colonoscopies do not generally The sedative effects cause patients to have limited/no memory of the procedure. You may experience some discomfort or bloating after the procedure because the bowel was inflated with air during the colonoscopy.
  • Some people may find drinking the liquid laxative preparation unpleasant or nauseating. You may find that mixing the liquid with cordial or chilling it easier to drink.
  • The preparation process involves passing a significant amount of fluids through the rectum. A combination of soft toilet paper, wet wipes, and lotions/creams may reduce or prevent discomfort in the anal area.
Methods of examination