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Old 01-04-2012, 09:35 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,022
Colonoscopy while conscious: what's the discomfort?

Sorry to start yet another thread on colonoscopies, but I've got some specific questions that only a very few can answer.

Have you had a colonoscopy during which you refused sedation, just so you could watch the procedure on the monitor?

And did you experience physical discomfort or pain?

If so, what was the source of your discomfort? Anal dilation by the probe, distention of your colon by all the air the pump in to inflate it, or poking the colon wall with the probe, or...what?

My first colonoscopy is about eight years away, but I'm curious to watch the procedure first hand, so I wonder what I'm in for if I choose to remain conscious and alert for it.
Old 01-04-2012, 09:52 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: California
Posts: 947
I've had one sigmoidoscopy and two colonoscopies without any medication (discounting the laxative and vile concoctions that are part of the preparation). The sigmoidoscopy was no problem. The colonoscopies were uncomfortable, but not what I would describe as "pain." As I recall, the discomfort was not particularly localized, and thus hard to describe. The level of discomfort rose when they pumped in air. Through the whole procedure I couldn't wait until it was over, though it was fascinating to watch the TV monitor. It was over very quickly, even when they had to remove a polyp (for which there was no pain or localized sensation at all). Both times, I told myself at the end that I would take the sedation the next time, but something in my nature is telling me to "tough it out." Apparently, it is unusual for someone to refuse the sedation. They try to talk you out of it. In fact, the second time I had the colonoscopy, from the same doctor, she told me that the medical history said I had had the sedation. This was patently untrue and I surmise they routinely write that in the record and simply forgot to change it after I refused. The second time around, word had obviously spread through the office since another doctor and one of the nurses expressed amazement to me as I walked out. It really wasn't a big deal. Far more comfortable than the dentist I went to as a child.

Last edited by JWT Kottekoe; 01-04-2012 at 09:54 PM.
Old 01-04-2012, 09:54 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 42,571
My doctor suggested that I have an unsedated colonoscopy, early in the morning. "You can then go straight into work!" he said, brightly.

So I did. It was interesting, getting to see my innards in Real Time, but it was definitely uncomfortable. I seriously dislike prostate exams and enemas, and this was like a super-enema. Plus you can feel the tube inside you, which isn't as supple and flexible as you or, I suspect, the doctor, thinks. Besides which, it's not just the tube. In order to keep the walls of your intestine away from the probe, they inflate your bowels with nitrogen. It's essentially a massive Reverse Fart, with all the attendant gas bloating.
Old 01-04-2012, 10:02 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: State of Hockey
Posts: 4,535
I was awake for mine and more interested than most patients. I found the screen fascinating. I hardly had any discomfort. I know that if you have a twisted colon, this can be a very painful procedure so apparently the only thing twisted about me is my brain.

The part I found weird didn't happen until the next day. I sat down on the loo and farted. No surprise there after such a procedure. But suddenly I was inundated with a floral air-freshener scent. For a second, I thought I had flowers coming out my arse. Nope. It really was air-freshener. Smart doc.
Old 01-04-2012, 10:29 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Sunny California
Posts: 14,840
Okay, lemme add this question: Has anybody had both the "old style" colonoscopies (before they used cameras) and the new ones with cameras, without sedation, so you can compare them?

Here is my story, about sigmoidoscopies:
1. Had one about 10 years ago. The tube was an optical fiber thingy, with no camera. It seemed like a flexible tube, and there was extremely minimal discomfort.

2. Had another one about 3 years ago, with camera. I thought the tube was much less flexible that I remembered it from earlier, and it seemed rather more uncomfortable. (I wanted to ask the technician if the video was being recorded, and if I could have a copy to post on youtube. But in the pain of the moment, I forgot )

So the question I want to add is: Are the modern procedures, with cameras, more uncomfortable than the older procedures, because the tube is less flexible?

Now here's another related question about discomfort of colonoscopies: The diagrams one often sees appear to show very acute angles at the bends ( jpg diagram ), labelled the splenic flexure and hepatic flexure. How in the ever-lovin world do they get any kind of tube around those bends?

Other diagrams, like this one show more gentle bends that one can imagine a tube gets around easily.

So what is it really like inside there?

Last edited by Senegoid; 01-04-2012 at 10:29 PM.
Old 01-04-2012, 10:48 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Away for a while
Posts: 6,683
They gave me something they said was a muscle relaxant and mild sedative. The room was set up so I could watch the camera and watch the whole procedure. My friend had gone through it and discussed the procedure with the doctor the whole time. I fell asleep. I think I was snored.

Oh, it hurt enough to almost wake me up twice.
Old 01-05-2012, 03:24 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 11,781
I've had sedation both times, but I was wide awake and watched it with interest. Afterwards, they insisted I stay in bed for an hour, so I did (wouldn't have had to had I not had sedation) but I felt I could have left immediately without falling on my face, so the sedation was very mild. The discomfort I felt when they made a left turn was also fairly mild (they warned me it was coming). The prep is much worse than the procedure. As a matter of fact, my wife is prepping for one tomorrow as I write this.

I have a friend who has a colonoscopy every two months (I think he has colitis or something) and he never takes sedation. He agrees the prep is far worse than the procedure.
Old 01-05-2012, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: 39 46' N 86 10' W
Posts: 1,949
one sigmoid, which i had done w/o sedation, and endless, countless colonoscopies.

i have been recently diagnosed with microscopic collagenous colitis MCC (very not good), which is more than a couple of notches over IBS. there will be many more 'oscopies in my lifetime to endure.

the sigmoid was nothing. i also watched the monitor while they trawled my innards and removed a polyp (benign). all with little to no discomfort from the scoping and no pain at all for the removal.

colonoscopies, however, are a whole 'nother animal.

because of severe inflammation issues, which makes everything a whole lot more painful, i only opt for sedation for those. in fact, for that last one in early december that finally diagnosed MCC, i had the doc give me the highest dosage allowed for my body weight for the procedure.

of course i don't remember most of the day and pretty much slept the clock around that night, but hey, whatever gets me through it.

frankly, if any of you fellow dopers have ANY inflammation problems with the large intestine and have never had a colonoscopy to date, if the day comes, go for the drugs. a good gastro doc won't tell you to do it without.

trust me, your body will thank you later.
Old 01-05-2012, 04:05 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Stockton
Posts: 10,241
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
I've had sedation both times, but I was wide awake and watched it with interest. . . .
Yeah, sedation doesn't put everyone out. Some of us it just relaxes, which I suppose makes things less painful.

During recovery there were several of us lined up on gurneys. The nurse kept explaining to us that we needed to "let out the air" and "don't be embarrassed, we know it's the doctor's air." The idea of farting someone else's "air" tickled me, and I would have cracked up if they hadn't given me the sedative.

Due to the sedative, I was only able to smile. Then I told my son about it several times as he drove me home. I also may have mentioned more than once that my colon was as pink and smooth as a baby's behind. Sedation has its humorous side.
Old 01-05-2012, 04:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: 39 46' N 86 10' W
Posts: 1,949
yes, it does...

the best part is driving your driver/SO bonkers with asking the same question or questions you just asked him five minutes ago. and five minutes ago before that.
Old 01-05-2012, 04:14 PM
Arms of Steel, Leg of Jello
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Riding my handcycle
Posts: 34,817
Bill Engvall on his colonoscopy.
Old 01-05-2012, 10:14 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: State of Hockey
Posts: 4,535
Originally Posted by Scubaqueen View Post
yes, it does...

the best part is driving your driver/SO bonkers with asking the same question or questions you just asked him five minutes ago. and five minutes ago before that.
Tee hee. I understand that I wasn't weirding my driver out other than demanding a corn dog to eat. (The doc's was next to a Culver's.) I wasn't sleepy either. However, my brother absolutely weirded me out when I drove for him. He said things I won't repeat back to him. He wants me to tell because he doesn't remember. Lucky him.

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