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What is it?

A colonoscopy is an exam used to discover changes or abnormalities in the large intestine.

What to expect

During the exam

During the exam, you may be sedated to minimise discomfort. Sedative medicine may be given in pill form or combined with an intravenous pain medication.

You will be lying on your side on the exam table, with your knees drawn toward your chest. Your doctor will insert a colonoscope into your rectum and pump into your colon through it to provide a clearer view of the colon wall. You may feel mild abdominal cramping when the air is inserted.

Your doctor will monitor the colon walls though the tiny camera at the tip of the colonoscope, and may also take tissue samples (biopsies) or remove polyps if any are present.

A colonoscopy typically can take from 20 minutes to an hour.

After the exam

You will take about an hour to begin to recover from the sedative. The effect of the sedative can last up to a day, so you need to plan for someone to take you home and take the rest of the day off.

If your doctor removed a polyp, you may need to be on a special diet temporarily.

As you clear the air from your colon, you may feel temporarily bloated. You may also notice blood in the first bowel after the exam, which is normal. Consult your doctor if you keep noticing blood in the bowels, if you have persistent abdominal pain or fever above 37.8 C.

Post Examination

After the exam, your doctor will communicate the results. If there were no abnormalities in the colon, your doctor will recommend when to do your next exam (typically between 5 to 10 years, depending on personal factors).

If your doctor found some polyps or other abnormalities, they will be sent to a lab to test whether they are cancerous, precancerous or benign. If malignant, your doctor may recommend a follow-up or a repeat exam.

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