What Is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure carried out using colonoscope (a thin flexible tube with a light and camera at the tip) is passed through the rectum and into the large colon (large intestine). This procedure enables the gastroenterologist to examine the entire length of the large intestine (known also as the colon). During the procedure, the gastroenterologist may take biopsies (small samples of tissue) which will later be inspected by a pathologist. If present, polyps (abnormal tissue growth) will be removed as they have the potential to transform into cancer.

When Should I Get a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy may be performed for a number of reasons: 


  • To investigate symptoms of the lower digestive tract such as abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea, constipation and bleeding.
  • To look for inflammation, infection and abnormal growths (polyps) within the colon.
  • Screening for bowel cancer particularly in people above age 50 years or those with a family history of bowel cancer.

How Should I Prepare For a Colonoscopy?

In order to create optimal conditions for the procedure, the colon must be entirely emptied beforehand. This is achieved by taking a specific bowel preparation (see patient instructions). An unprepared colon lowers the success rate of the procedure and may result in you having to return for a repeat procedure.

For safety reasons it is important that you follow the instruction sheet provided and have nothing to drink for at least 4 hours prior to your colonoscopy.

While most medications can be taken as usual with a sip of water on the day of your colonoscopy, some medications need to be stopped, or have their dose altered. 

Make sure to notify your physician at least 7 days prior to your procedure if you are taking:

  • Blood thinners (clopidogrel, warfarin, pradaxa, eliquis, xaralto etc.)
  • Diabetes medication (metformin, gliflozins, insulin etc)

Make sure to bring your referral, a list of the medications you’re taking, and your medicare card/private health fund information on the day of your procedure.

What Will Happen On the Day of the Gastroscopy?

  1. After registering, you will be checked in by a nurse.
  2. You will then be seen by your gastroenterologist and anaesthetist who will discuss your medical history and explain the procedure.
  3. You will be given a light anaesthetic, and while this is not a general anaesthetic, most patients are very comfortable and do not experience any pain during the procedure.
  4. Once sedated and lying comfortably on your left side, the endoscope is passed gently through the rectum and into the colon.
  5. Your specialist may use special instruments passed through the scope to take biopsies or remove polyps ( pre-cancerous growths in the colon).
  6. The procedure usually takes between 20-30 minutes.

What Happens Following My Colonoscopy?

Once the procedure is finished, you will be monitored in the recovery area until most of the anesthesia has worn off. You will then be offered a drink and some food. At home, regular food can be consumed unless the physician instructs otherwise.

You MUST NOT drive, return to work, operate heavy machinery or sign and legal documents on the same day of the gastroscopy. A designated driver MUST be appointed in advance to drive you home. You will need to have someone stay with you overnight after the procedure.

What Are the Risks or Side-Effects of a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopies are a very safe procedure that most patients tolerate very well.

The most common side effect is abdominal bloating or discomfort related to air blown into the bowel during the test.

Very rarely do severe complications occur, these include

-bleeding from the bowel

-perforation (tear in the lining of the colon) These can often be repaired using colonoscopy-guided interventions or sometimes surgery.

-reaction to the anaesthetic

Contact GastroX or your nearest emergency department if you have any concerns or experience any of the following symptoms after your colonoscopy:

  • Worsening abdominal pain
  • Significant bleeding from the bowel
  • Fevers
  • Other symptoms that cause you concern