What is Colonoscopy?

If your doctor has recommended a colonoscopy procedure you may be concerned about what this is all about. The simple explanation is that your doctor has identified something that needs checking out. It doesn’t mean there is any reason to panic – it just means that your symptoms need a closer examination.

Think of it as putting your inside under a microscope to find out what might be causing your symptoms – a colonoscopy investigation examines the large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel.

If you’re thinking of being seen as a private patient, rather than going on an NHS waiting list, Highgate Private Hospital has a team of highly experienced consultants and nursing staff who will ensure the colonoscopy procedure is as easy as possible for you.

Highgate Private Hospital is NOW JAG accredited. Click here to read more about JAG accreditation.

From your first consultation to aftercare, you’ll be well looked after and any questions you may have will be answered at every stage. Our patient information booklet will tell you exactly what will happen and your consultant will address any concerns you may have before your colonoscopy takes place.


Q: What does a colonoscopy involve?

A:  A colonoscopy investigates your large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel using a tiny flexible tube with a camera (called an endoscope). This is inserted through the anus and then passed through to the other end of the large intestine.

Q: Is it just a camera?

A:  The endoscope can also be used to remove polyps and take biopsies (whereby tissue samples are taken for analysis) if your consultant wants to take a closer look – this means you won’t need to come back for another procedure later.

Q: What conditions might be revealed during a colonoscopy?

A:  A colonoscopy can be used to investigate and detect polyps (small protruding growths), ulcers and irritated or swollen tissue. It can assist in exploring conditions such as colitis, Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Q: How long does it take?

A:  It can be undertaken in about 30mins without the need for general anaesthetic. You may be offered sedation to make it more comfortable.

Q: Does it hurt?

A:  There may be some minor discomfort as the tube is introduced into your colon, but this is momentary. Your nurse will ensure you are comfortable and can provide you with medication to help if necessary.

Q: Is there an incision?

A:  No, the endoscope is inserted gently via your back passage. However, if biopsies are taken, this involves small tissue samples being cut away to then be sent off for analysis. Should polyps be removed during the colonoscopy, this can involve them being physically removed using a wire loop, cut off or cauterised (burned off using electric current).

Q: Will I need an enema?

A:  No, but you will be given a very specific diet to follow for the days prior to your procedure and you must fast for 24 hours beforehand and drink nothing for three hours beforehand. You will be given bowel preparation laxatives the day before the procedure to make sure your bowel is empty. You’ll get comprehensive information well before your appointment.

Q: Are there any after effects?

A:  You will feel bloated and may have wind pains, but these will pass naturally. If you have had gas and air during the procedure you will need to wait for about 30 minutes for the effects to wear off and if you’ve had sedation you may need to wait longer. You will be monitored until you are fit to leave. It is advisable to have someone with you to take you home.

Q: What are the benefits of having a colonoscopy?

A:  Having a colonoscopy can help with diagnosis of symptoms and conditions. As well as other issues/illnesses, a colonoscopy can detect bowel cancer, allowing treatment and in some cases prevention.

Q: What are the common complications/risks associated with it?

A:  Sometimes during a colonoscopy, complications can occur, such as bleeding or perforation (a hole in the intestine), however, this is very rare. In the case this does occur, treatment would most likely take place in the same department, but you may be required to stay overnight.

Q: When can I return to daily activities?

A:  You should be able to resume your normal activities the next day.

Q: Is there any other way of carrying out this kind of exploration?

A:  It is possible to find out some things with a barium enema or with an air contrast CT scan. However, neither of these allow for polyps to be removed or biopsies to be taken. Therefore, should there need to be further investigation you would need to return for another procedure.

Colonoscopy Consultants