What to Expect

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is done for the purpose of examining your colon (large intestine) and if applicable, removing a polyp or polyps.

During the exam
During a colonoscopy, you'll wear a gown but likely nothing else. You will receive sedation through an IV.

You'll begin the exam lying on your side on the exam table, usually with your knees drawn toward your chest. The doctor will insert a colonoscope into your rectum. The scope - which is long enough to reach the entire length of your colon - contains a fiber-optic light and a channel that allows the doctor to pump air into your colon. The air inflates the colon, which provides a better view of the lining of the colon. When the scope is moved or air is introduced, you may feel abdominal cramping or the urge to have a bowel movement.

The colonoscope also contains a tiny video camera at its tip. The camera sends images to an external monitor so that the doctor can study the inside of your colon. The doctor can also insert instruments through the channel to take tissue samples (biopsies) or remove polyps or other areas of abnormal tissue.

A colonoscopy typically takes about 20 minutes to an hour.

After the exam
After the exam, it takes about an hour to recover from the sedative. You'll need someone to take you home because it can take up to a day for the full effects of the sedative to wear off. Rest for the remainder of the day.

You may feel bloated or pass gas for a few hours after the exam, as you clear the air from your colon. Walking may help relieve any discomfort.

You may also notice a small amount of blood with your first bowel movement after the exam. Usually this isn't cause for alarm. Consult your doctor if you continue to pass blood or blood clots or if you have persistent abdominal pain or a fever of 100 F (37.8 C) or higher. Your physician will notify you or your family member the findings of the exam before you go home. Your primary physician will receive a copy of the procedure report. Your physician may provide you with a copy of the photos taken during the procedure. If any specimens are retrieved, results will be back in 2-3 business days. Your physician will notify you of the results.

Gastroscopy

What happens during a gastroscopy?
Gastroscopy is usually done as an outpatient. It is a routine test which is commonly done. The physician will numb the back of your throat by spraying on some local anaesthetic. You will be given an IV sedative to help you to relax. The sedative can make you drowsy but it does not 'put you to sleep'. It is not a general anaesthetic.

You lie on your side. You are asked to put a plastic mouth guard between your teeth. This protects your teeth and stops you biting the endoscope. The operator will then ask you to swallow the first section of the endoscope. Modern endoscopes are quite thin and easy to swallow. The operator then gently pushes it further down your esophagus, and into your stomach and duodenum. The video camera at the tip of the endoscope sends pictures to a screen. The operator watches the screen for abnormalities of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Air is passed down a channel in the endoscope into the stomach to make the stomach lining easier to see. This may cause you to feel 'full' and want to belch.

The operator may take one or more biopsies (small samples) of parts of the inside lining of the gut - depending on why the test is done and what they see. This is painless. The biopsy samples are sent to the laboratory for testing, and to look at under the microscope. The endoscope is then gently pulled out.

A gastroscopy usually takes about 10 minutes. However, you should allow at least two hours for the whole appointment, to prepare, give time for the sedative to work (if you have one), for the gastroscopy itself and to recover. A gastroscopy does not usually hurt, but it can be a little uncomfortable, particularly when you first swallow the endoscope.

What preparation do I need to do?
You should get instructions from the hospital department before your test. Instructions commonly include:

  • You should not eat for 4-6 hours before the test. The stomach needs to be empty. (Small sips of water may be allowed up to two hours before the test.) 
  • If you have a sedative you will need somebody to accompany you home.

What can I expect after a gastroscopy?
Most people are ready to go home after resting for half an hour or so. The sedative will normally make you feel quite pleasant and relaxed. However, you should not drive, operate machinery or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having the sedative. You will need somebody to accompany you home and to stay with you for 24 hours until the effects have fully worn off. Most people are able to resume normal activities after 24 hours.

Your physician will notify you or your family member the findings of the exam before you go home. However, if you have had a sedative you may not remember afterwards what they said. Your primary physician will receive a copy of the procedure report. Your physician may provide you with a copy of the photos taken during the procedure. If any specimens are retrieved, results will be back in 2-3 business days. Your physician will notify you of the results.