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What to Expect When You Get a Colonoscopy

I was initially concerned, but the procedure turned out to be painless and easy. I hope the sharing of my experience will help reassure you.

This article will break down my experience with what it was like to get a colonoscopy and will include some information about the preparation process and after effects of the procedure.

This article will break down my experience with what it was like to get a colonoscopy and will include some information about the preparation process and after effects of the procedure.

I have always heard about people having a colonoscopy, and I thought that had to be one of the most unpleasant things ever.

When my doctor told me that because of age, he was going to send me to have a screening colonoscopy done, I started to dread the idea. A local center advertises it on TV, and I swear every time it sounds like they are saying "screaming colonoscopy"! The whole idea sounds kind of demeaning and, above all, pretty painful. I mean, can you imagine what it would feel like to have that big scope shoved up your nether regions?

As it turns out, it's not quite as scary as you might think. This article will break down my experience with the procedure, including the preparation and after effects.

My Initial Appointment and Prescription

I was referred to the local hospital's digestive center, where they set me up with an appointment to see a doctor. When I went to that appointment, the doctor explained that I would need to take the day off before the procedure to prepare, and then also the day of the procedure.

He wrote me a prescription for the prep solution, which in my case was something called TriLyte. He also told me that there would be no discomfort associated with the procedure and that I should not be concerned about it. There was also a list of foods that should not be eaten the week before the procedure, such as foods with red, purple, or blue dye. I was also not allowed to take iron supplements or aspirin in the week prior.

What My Preparation Day Was Like

My doctor said that I should not eat at any solid foods the day prior to the procedure, though other people said I could have some food in the morning prior. Obviously, follow your doctor's orders.

On the preparation day, you can drink things like:

  • apple juice
  • tea or coffee (honey, sugar, and sugar substitutes can be used, but no milk)
  • Jell-O (no red or purple)
  • diet soda
  • popsicles (orange, lemon-lime)
  • Gatorade (orange, lemon-lime)
  • clear soup or broth
  • white grape juice
  • hard candy

My choices were apple juice and chicken broth.

At 2 pm that day, I started drinking the prep solution. In my case, the prep was a product called TriLyte, which is a gallon jug with some powder in it. It came with flavor packets: orange, pineapple, cherry, lemon lime, and citrus berry. A friend suggested that she found the orange most palatable, so I went with that. Once the solution is mixed up, you are to drink 8 ounces of the solution at timed intervals. This varies by your doctor's preference. My doctor suggested 8 ounces every 30 minutes until the jug was gone.

Many people call the taste of this product vile, but I was lucky that I was able to get it down without a problem. It helps if it is cold and you chase it immediately with something else. My choice was Diet Sprite.

I don't want to be too graphic about the results of drinking this product, but being within 10 steps of a toilet would be an excellent idea. It didn't hit me immediately, I think I was on my sixth glass of the stuff when I got results.

I was supposed to stop drinking anything at midnight, so I had my last Diet Sprite at 11:59 pm and headed for bed.

getting-a-colonoscopy

What the Day of the Colonoscopy Was Like

I got up at 5 am because the doctor wanted me to take my blood pressure medication at that time, with as little water as possible. After taking those, I went back to bed for another hour or so. My wife was going to drive me home. So at 6:45 am, I woke her and we trudged through the snow to our car. We arrived at the colonoscopy center, and they had several forms for us to read and sign. The receptionist offered my wife an iPod to use to pass the time.

My procedure was scheduled for 8:30 am, and a nurse came and got me at 7:45 or so took me back to my bed. There she gave me a gown, instructed me to strip naked except for socks, and get the gown on. Once I was gowned, she came back and had me lay down on the bed. She took my vitals and then inserted an IV. She explained that the anesthesiologist would use the IV to inject propofol to put me out, then inject something to bring me back when the procedure was over.

The doctor came to my bed and told me that they were ready to get started and wanted to know if I had any questions. After I said no, the anesthesiologist wheeled me into an operating room, and a nurse there asked me to roll onto my left side.

The anesthesiologist then took a syringe and told me she was ready to go. She injected the syringe into my IV port. In about 15 seconds, she asked me if I was groggy at all. I remember telling her no, then about 10 seconds later starting to say that it was working.

Next thing I remember, they told me that the procedure was done, and that they were taking me back to my room to recover. Once I got there, my wife was allowed back, and I was amazed at how alert I was. I didn't feel groggy at all.

The doctor came in and explained that they did find polyps and removed them, and that I would get a letter in a few weeks explaining the biopsy results and whether any further treatment was required.

They gave me the OK to get dressed. A nurse came in and reminded me that even though I felt fine, that I should not drive or do anything that required mental acuity, such as entering into legal agreements or purchases.

This is what a colonoscope looks like.

This is what a colonoscope looks like.

How I Felt After the Colonoscopy

My most pressing feeling was that of hunger. We left the clinic and ate immediately.

My only real after effect from the procedure is that I am just a tiny bit tender in part of my belly. I suspect that could be from the area where they removed the polyps, but I have no way of knowing if I am right.

The biggest feeling after the whole thing was how easy it was.

My Test Results and What They Meant

I got the results of my polyps biopsy, and it turns out that they were not malignant, but they were not benign either. They showed to be precancerous, so I guess what happens from here is I will have another colonoscopy at times set by my doctor.

The only big problem with that is my insurance will only pay for this procedure every 10 years.

My Feelings About the Colonoscopy Process After a Few Years

In the time since I had this initial colonoscopy, my insurance company has adjusted their guidelines and now they will pay every five years—or if other tests determine that a colonoscopy is indicated. Four years after my initial colonoscopy, my annual blood tests indicated that another colonoscopy was needed.

My only real comment about this is that the solution the doctor prescribed to clean me out was not as harsh as the first go-around, and there were other options I was allowed to consume during prep. Yes, all were liquid based, but it seemed like preparation was not as restrictive as the first time around.

I had more precancerous polyps removed, and my current blood tests are trending towards having to repeat the colonoscopy this winter.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2009 Mitch Bolen

Comments

Nelle Hoxie on January 23, 2010:

Because of a family history of colon cancer, I have had a colonoscopy every 3 to 5 years since I was 35. It isn't the most pleasant experience. But it is truly a life saver for many people. I try to think of it as 2 or 3 unpleasant days for over 1,000 days with peace of mind. (My mom is a 20-year survivor of colon cancer and her mom was a survivor for just as long as well).

Mistyhorizon sorry to hear about your husband and his experience.

pddm67 from Queens, New York on December 17, 2009:

Glad everything turned out alright :-) I also had a colonoscopy but wasn't lucky enough to be knocked out while it happened. They did give me some Demerol but I could still feel everything that was happening. It didn't hurt or anything, just was very uncomfortable. When I mentioned it to the Doctor he said I shouldn't be feeling anything since he seemed to believe they'd doped me up enough. Then he asked me if I wanted to watch the procedure as it was happening. Nope - not for me. I could already feel it - didn't need to see it too!

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on December 12, 2009:

Yes it was a difficult time and I do wish they had given him a sedative when they tried to Colonoscopy on him, but they didn't. Much later when the facts came out the Doctor said it was no wonder it had hurt so much if the bowel was rigid.

I am sure there is no truly nice way of having one of these procedures though.

Mitch Bolen (author) from Midwest USA on December 11, 2009:

Mistyhorizon2003, sorry for your late husband's death, and the events that led up to it. That must have been a terribly difficult time for you.

Until recently, the procedure was done here with a sedative that left you able to talk to the doctor during the procedure, but after, you would have no memory of the event.

Recently they switched to a quick anesthesia that puts you under, then back to fully conscious within seconds of the end of procedure.

A few years ago my wife had the procedure down the throat, and she had a bad reaction to the sedative and was unconscious for 3 days.

Eileen,

They did blow me up with air, I was just leaving out one of the more colorful effects of the procedure.

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on December 11, 2009:

You were lucky, my late Husband had the procedure without any sedative and when he complained how much it hurt the doctor told him "not to be such a baby". Shortly after it was proven that he had advanced Bowel Cancer and his Colon was totally brittle like plastic. Within two weeks after diagnosis he died. A tragic time for all of us, yet in the UK no-one suggested any kind of anaesthetic before the procedure.

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on December 11, 2009:

That is a horrible procedure. Well at least we are asleep. Its the stuff that you have to drink and then of course the after effects, yuk. Good for slimming that's for sure.

My husband had both down the throat as well. And to make matters worse they blew him up with air to get a better look down there. Gee he suffered with pains. He looked pregnant because he was so blown up.