What Happens During a Colonoscopy?


A colonoscopy helps diagnose and treat certain gastrointestinal conditions without having to make any incisions. It is usually recommended as a screening procedure for colorectal cancer and to detect inflammation, ulcers, bleeding, and tumors. It can also be used to remove polyps that may become cancerous at a later stage. The colonoscopy procedure is relatively easy and you will actually sleep through it. One or two days before the procedure, you will be advised to stop solid foods and start a liquid diet. Your doctor will give you a bowel prep medicine to completely clear out your intestines of all solid waste. Once that is complete the actual procedure is straightforward.


During the procedure, your doctor views your large intestine using a special device called a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a long flexible tube with a camera and light source that allows your surgeon to have a magnified view of the inside of the large intestine on a monitor. You will lie on your left side with your knees bent on the examination table and you will receive a sedative through an IV line. Your doctor will insert the colonoscope into your anus until it reaches the end of the colon. Images of the large intestine are transmitted through the colonoscope to a computer screen. The colonoscope is then slowly withdrawn while your doctor checks the computer screen for any abnormalities.

  • A biopsy of a suspicious growth may be taken by inserting small swabs, forceps or loops through the hollow scope for further investigation.
  • If a polyp is found, it can be burned or removed by passing a wire loop through the colonoscope.

The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 to 45 minutes. You will be transferred to the recovery room for about 30 minutes before you are allowed to go home. Because you have been sedated you cannot drive over the next 24 hours and you will have to bring someone to take you home. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening after the age of 45 years and continuing until 75 years of age. Many people are uncomfortable with the thought of having to undergo this procedure, but the fact is a colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer and early detection improves the chances of successful treatment of colon cancer. Contact us for your screening today.