Colonoscopies are one of the most dreaded screening procedures for many patients, but they are very important for those who are over age 50 or at an increased risk for colon cancer. While the preparation required before the test — usually consisting of a combination of laxatives — can be unpleasant, the recovery from a colonoscopy is typically quick and easy for most people.

During a colonoscopy in Beverly Hills, the doctor gently advances a long, narrow flexible tube-shaped scope into your anus and through your rectum to look at your colon. The scope is outfitted with a light and camera on the tip, allowing it to capture pictures and relay video back to your doctor in real time. Because sedation is required, many patients report having no memory of the procedure, and almost all of them report not remembering any pain during the test.

What Can I Expect Immediately After A Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy requires either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, which is the cause of most of the immediate after effects of the procedure. Many people wake up slowly, and feel disoriented for several hours after being sedated, because it takes time for these drugs to wear off.

In most cases, patients are moved into a recovery room after the completion of the colonoscopy. Abdominal cramping is rare after the test is completed, although many people don’t recall this later due to the sedation or anesthesia they have received. You will most likely remain in the recovery room for at least an hour, and may be as long as two hours.

Once you are awake and aware and fully recovered, you will be released. You will need to have someone drive you, though. For safety reasons, patients cannot drive for at least 24 hours after receiving sedation for a colonoscopy.

What Happens If A Biopsy Is Taken?

One of the benefits of a colonoscopy is that not only does it allow the doctor to look at your colon, it allows them to take samples and remove anything that appears abnormal. A biopsy occurs when the doctor removes a small amount of tissue for further testing. Colon polyps are among the most commonly biopsied growths removed during this procedure.

The great majority of them are harmless, but rarely, they may also develop into colon cancer. For this reason, most doctors choose to remove them and send them for testing when they are discovered. If you have polyps or other tissues removed, you may experience a small amount of bleeding after your colonoscopy. This is normal and should clear up within a few days.

In some cases, the doctor will be able to tell that a polyp is benign immediately. In other cases, it will need to be sent to the lab for pathological examination. After your sedation has worn off, your doctor will share any findings with you, and schedule an appointment to discuss any lab findings, if necessary. You may also receive a printed report that outlines what was found and includes some of the images captured during the screening.

Once the biopsy arrives in the lab, a pathologist will look at the cells that make up the tissue sample using a microscope to ensure there are no malignant cells present. It may take a few days to a week for the pathologist to examine the tissue that was removed and determine if further treatment is necessary. Your doctor may not require you to come to the office if the lab results are benign, although some doctors still prefer to see you in person. If a problem is found, your doctor will most likely present a treatment plan at the follow-up appointment about a week after your colonoscopy.

What Are My Aftercare Instructions?

Most people will make a full recovery within 24 hours after a colonoscopy. During the first 24 hours, however, you may feel disoriented and fatigued from the sedative. You may want to plan to rest at home the evening of your screening.

Many also report feeling bloated and having higher-than-normal amounts of gas following the procedure. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since doctors often pump a small amount of air into a patient’s colon in order to improve their view. This also typically passes within 24 hours of the test.

While there is typically little aftercare beyond the first few hours following a colonoscopy, it is important for you, or a trusted family member or friend, to discuss what is required in your specific case. If you have had polyps removed or a biopsy taken, for example, you may need to eat a restricted diet or refrain from some activities for a short time after the procedure. Most people, however, can return to their normal diet immediately.

It will also be important that you are aware of the signs of complications following a colonoscopy. They are extremely rare, but can be serious if not caught and treated early. If you experience severe abdominal pain, fever and chills or an excessive amount of rectal bleeding, you will need to see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

Next, read What are Chronic Anal Fissures?