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How Long Is A Colonoscopy Procedure From Start To Finish?

How Long Is A Colonoscopy Procedure From Start To Finish

A colonoscopy, which serves as an essential method for colon cancer screening, can be an intimidating prospect for many. A question you may ask is, “How long is a colonoscopy procedure from start to finish?”

This comprehensive guide breaks down the length of the colonoscopy procedure, detailing what you can expect before, during, and after your appointment. We’ll also touch on crucial topics such as colon cancer, colorectal cancer, and the importance of tissue samples in diagnosis.


1. How Long Does A Colonoscopy Take?

  How Long Is A Colonoscopy Procedure From Start To Finish

Most colonoscopies take between 30 minutes to an hour. However, this time frame strictly pertains to the procedure itself and does not account for the preparation and recovery time. When you factor in these stages, the entire process can take 2-3 days.


2. What Happens During A Colonoscopy?

During a colonoscopy, a colorectal surgeon or a qualified colorectal doctor uses a flexible tube with a tiny video camera attached to its end, known as a colonoscope, to view the inside of the large intestine. The procedure starts with the doctor gently inserting the colonoscope into the rectum and manoeuvring it through the colon.

The tiny video camera on the colonoscope provides a live feed of the colon’s interior, allowing the doctor to identify any abnormalities, such as polyps, which are growths that could develop into colon cancer if left untreated. If the doctor discovers polyps, they can use tools passed through the colonoscope to remove them during the procedure.

The doctor may also procure tissue samples for in-depth examination to rule out colorectal cancer. If the colonoscopy is purely for screening purposes, it can be quicker. However, the procedure may take longer if the doctor needs to remove polyps or take tissue samples.

The procedure usually involves light sedation or, in some cases, general anaesthesia to ensure patient comfort.


3. Colonoscopy Preparation: Before The Procedure

An essential part of the colonoscopy screening procedure is the colonoscopy prep, which typically starts a few days before the actual procedure. The colon must be completely clean to ensure the doctor gets a good view. A clear liquid diet is usually recommended 24 hours before the procedure, coupled with a bowel preparation regimen prescribed by your doctor.

Patients must also arrange for a companion to take them home after the procedure due to the effects of the sedation or anaesthesia.


4. Additional Steps To Take During A Colonoscopy Prep

Know Your Family History

If you have a family history of colon or colorectal cancer or other risk factors, your doctor may recommend regular screenings starting at an earlier age.

Understand The Signs And Symptoms

While colonoscopies are preventive, it’s crucial to understand the signs and symptoms of colon cancer and seek medical attention if needed. These can include severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or unexplained changes in bowel habits.

Consult Your Doctor About Your Medications

Suppose you’re on any long-term medications, especially for conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension. In such cases, it’s vital to consult your doctor about managing these medications during your colonoscopy prep. Some medications need to be adjusted or temporarily halted.

Discuss Allergies And Medical Conditions

Inform your doctor about any allergies, especially to medications. If you are plagued with other medical conditions, like lung or kidney disease, ensure that your doctor is aware, as these may affect how your body responds to the sedation used during the procedure.

Stay Hydrated

During your colonoscopy prep, you’ll be on a clear liquid diet and taking bowel-cleansing laxatives. This could lead to dehydration, so maintaining hydration is essential by drinking plenty of clear fluids like water, clear broths, or sports drinks with electrolytes.

Set Aside Time For Rest And Relaxation

The bowel preparation for a colonoscopy can be physically demanding. Ensure you have enough time to rest and are near a bathroom, as you will have frequent bowel movements. It might also be helpful to have comforting items nearby, such as books, magazines, or movies, to help pass the time.

Understand The Risks And Benefits

Colonoscopy, like any medical procedure, comes with its own set of risks and benefits. Understanding these can help you decide and mentally prepare for the process. The main advantages of a colonoscopy, such as early detection of colon and colorectal cancer and the removal of polyps, typically outweigh the risks. However, potential risks can include:

  • Adverse reactions to sedation.
  • Bleeding after polyp removal, or in rare cases.
  • A perforation (tear) in the colon.

Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor. Remember, a colonoscopy is a key tool for preventing and detecting colon cancer. Despite the time and effort involved in the preparation and recovery, its benefits are significant in terms of peace of mind and health outcomes.


5. What You Should Do After A Colonoscopy Procedure

After the procedure, you might feel bloated or have mild abdominal pain due to air introduced into the colon. These symptoms usually subside with time. Contact your doctor immediately if there is severe abdominal pain, heavy rectal bleeding, or other concerning symptoms.

Post-procedure, you will need someone to drive you home due to the sedation or anaesthesia’s residual effects.Pain medication is often prescribed to manage any discomfort.


6. Importance Of Early Detection

A colonoscopy serves as a preventative measure for colon cancer. The survival rate for colorectal cancer is significantly higher when detected early. Regular screenings can help identify and remove polyps before they develop into cancer.


Conclusion On How Long Is A Colonoscopy Procedure

A colonoscopy procedure, from start to finish, involves several steps, each contributing to the overall duration of 2-3 days. From initial bowel preparation to the procedure itself, and finally, the recovery, every stage is crucial for the success of the colonoscopy. Remember, while the prospect of undergoing your first colonoscopy may be daunting, it’s essential to the early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer.

If you’re aged 50 and above, have a family history of colon cancer, or have experienced recent changes in bowel habits, it’s time to consider scheduling a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy can dramatically increase the effectiveness of treatment and the potential for a full recovery.

Dr Leong is a highly skilled colorectal surgeon in Singapore who can guide you through this process with utmost professionalism and care. Schedule a consultation today.


Frequently Asked Questions On How Long Does A Colonoscopy Procedure Take

Are There Alternative Colon Cancer Screening Tests?

Yes, alternatives to colonoscopies include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and a virtual colonoscopy using CT scans. However, a colonoscopy remains the gold standard due to its ability to view the entire colon and remove polyps during the procedure.

What Are Abnormal Results From A Colonoscopy?

Abnormal results from a colonoscopy might include the discovery of polyps, inflammation, ulcers, or tumours. If tissue samples or polyps were removed, an abnormal result could also indicate the presence of cancer cells.

Is It Painful To Have A Colonoscopy?

Most patients do not find a colonoscopy painful due to the sedation or anaesthesia used. However, they might experience discomfort or bloating due to the air pumped into the colon during the procedure.

Does A Colonoscopy Take A Whole Day?

The colonoscopy procedure itself generally takes 30 minutes to an hour. However, when accounting for preparation and recovery time, the entire process might occupy a significant portion of your day.

How Long Is Recovery After Colonoscopy?

Typically, recovery after a colonoscopy takes a few hours to a day, depending on the individual’s response to sedation. However, it is generally recommended to rest and refrain from driving or operating machinery for 24 hours post-procedure.

Will I Be Okay A Day After A Colonoscopy?

Most patients feel fine a day after a colonoscopy. Some residual bloating or gas may persist, but severe abdominal pain or heavy rectal bleeding should be reported to your doctor immediately.

Can Haemorrhoids Be Removed During A Colonoscopy?

While a colonoscopy primarily focuses on detecting polyps and signs of cancer, some doctors may choose to remove or treat haemorrhoids during the procedure if necessary. However, this is not a standard part of the procedure.