Side Effects of a Colonoscopy

Side Effects of a Colonoscopy
Side Effects of a Colonoscopy (Image:

A colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the large and small intestines. A fiber-optic camera is attached to a flexible tube and is inserted in the anus. This provides a more accurate, visual diagnosis and allows for biopsy or removal of lesions. A colonoscopy can remove colon polyps as miniscule as 1 millimeter. A colonoscopy is utilized to identify gastro-intestinal hemorrhages, Crohn's Disease, unusual changes in bowels, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. The effects of a colonoscopy are usually mild.


In order for the colonoscopy to be performed most accurately, the intestines must be free of all waste. Depending on the circumstances, the patient will be put on a clear liquid diet for up to three days. The only liquids allowed during that time are apple juice, broth, lemon-lime sodas, and water. No juices containing fiber are allowable. In some cases, black coffee and soda are permitted. The evening prior to the colonoscopy, the patient is provided a laxative or enema to further clear the colon of waste. A soothing balm, such as Petroleum Jelly, applied to the anus will offer relief during the cleansing process.


Because of the invasive quality of the procedure, the patient is sedated intravenously. The initial step in any colonoscopy is a digital rectal examination to learn the tone of the sphincter. The endoscope is then inserted in the anus and passed to the rectum, then the colon, and finally the terminal ileum, or the final section of the small intestine. Recovery time is usually required to let the sedation effects dissipate. This will usually take less than an hour, and patients are allowed to go home. Most endocoscopists require the patient to have a guardian to take him home, allowing for less recovery time.

Side Effects

The most common effects of a colonoscopy are bloating and flatulence. Often, the flatulence is painful. If the patient already suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, or chronic constipation, a colonoscopy may cause these symptoms to appear erratically and cause severe diarrhea. If a polyp is removed, excess blood may be discharged, but it should not continue more than a few hours after the surgery. If it does continue for an extended period of time, even as long as a day after the procedure, return immediately to your doctor.

Rare Side Effects

The procedure has a minimal threat for serious difficulties. Although it is rare, the most serious risk for complication is a small tear in the colon lining, or a gastro-intestinal perforation. This is life-threatening and necessitates immediate surgery. The risk of delayed bleeding, infection and ulceration are higher than that of gastrointestinal perforation, but it is still rare.


As with any procedure, some patients who undergo a colonoscopy are at risk of an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Discussing health-related problems with the doctor and anesthesiologist before the procedure should prevent any anesthesia-related difficulties.

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