Colonosocopy from expert endoscopists at The London Clinic

Colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the large bowel and is considered the gold standard of bowel cancer screening methods. An expert endoscopist guides a colonoscope (a long, thin, flexible tube containing a tiny video camera) from the anus to the end of the colon (caecum) and into the distal part of the small bowel (the terminal ileum.)

Images from the camera are shown in real-time on a monitor, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the bowel. Biopsies and treatment can be given during this procedure, which usually takes about 30 minutes.

A colonoscopy may be performed for the following reasons:

  • Routine health screen
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anaemia
  • A change in bowel habit
  • Chronic diarrhoea or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Suspected polyp
  • Monitoring of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease

Polyps

During the colonosocopy the endoscopist will examine the entire large bowel for ‘polyps’. Polyps are growths that develop in the lining of the bowel and are usually benign or non-cancerous. Around 40% of people over the age of 50 are found to have polyps in their bowel during a colonoscopy, although many of these polyps are small and completely harmless.

Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy by a procedure called polypectomy. There is good evidence that early removal of polyps can prevent colon cancer. If a polyp is found, regular follow-up colonoscopies are recommended as there is an increased risk of developing further polyps.

The colonoscopy

Bowel preparation is taken by the patient the day beforehand to ensure clear views throughout the bowel.
Sedation can be given during the procedure, but is not essential. The test can be slightly uncomfortable, but not painful, so patients can choose to be sedated or not. (An escort is required to take patients home following sedation.) Gas is gently infused into the colon to expand the bowel for the doctor to have good views.

If a polyp is seen, the doctor can remove it painlessly by using a device passed through the colonoscope, and then send it to the laboratory for testing. The colonoscope is withdrawn, removing excess gas on the way.

What happens if a polyp has been removed?

The laboratory testing of a polyp usually takes 3 to 4 working days. Depending on the size and number of polyps, the biopsy results, the patient’s age, and other factors such as a family history of bowel cancer, the doctor will recommend when to have a follow-up colonoscopy. This will usually be between 1 and 10 years, with most patients needing an examination every 3 or 5 years.

Recovery

If you have sedation you will need to recover in hospital for about one hour afterwards and must have an escort to take you home. You will not be able to drive for 24 hours, and should avoid alcohol, working or making important decisions as the drugs take time to wear off and you will not be as mentally alert as usual.

After the procedure you might experience wind or cramps but this soon passes. If you do not have any sedation you can return to normal activities straight after the procedure. However, if large polyps have been removed you will be advised to spend the rest of the day quietly at home, avoiding rigorous exercise.

Making an enquiry

For more information about a private colonosocopy at The London Clinic:

Click here for the main stomach and bowel services page