30 November 2011

Is Colonoscopy Painful?

Posted by Jody under: Aches & Pains .

Q.I just read an article on diverticulosis, and it suggested having a colonoscopy. Isn’t this a very uncomfortable, painful procedure? Is there any anesthesia given for this? I had a procedure done in my doctor’s office when he first diagnosed me with diverticulosis, and it was so painful that I grabbed the nurse’s arm and clothing. I should go back to the doctor because my intestines have been cramping and hurting for about a week, but I really don’t want to go through that much pain again.


A.Diverticulosis is a condition in which the colon develops small outpouchings called diverticula. This condition is common among older people, affecting more than half of people over age 60. Diverticulosis is usually diagnosed when a colonoscopy or barium enema is done for other reasons. There is no good reason to look for diverticulosis if a patient has no symptoms. Often patients who have constipation and pain in the lower, left abdomen receive one of the above exams, at which time diverticulosis is diagnosed.

A.Also, a complication of diverticulosis, such as bleeding or perforation with infection (diverticulitis), may lead to investigation. Doctors often have patients suffering from fever and left-sided abdominal pain undergo a CT scan, which can enable them to make a preliminary diagnosis of diverticulitis. Although antibiotics usually are sufficient to treat diverticulitis, a colonoscopy must be done at a later time (usually four to six weeks after the attack) to rule out colon cancer, which can mimic diverticulitis on the CT scan.

Colonoscopy should be a relatively comfortable procedure. IV sedatives and painkillers are given, so many patients do not remember the procedure, which typically lasts 15-30 minutes. In your case, it sounds like you may have had a flexible sigmoidoscopy (a shorter exam that looks only at the lower 50cm of the colon). Since “flex-sig” normally takes only 5-10 minutes, IV sedatives are not given. Even this procedure should not cause much discomfort. Patients will often feel temporarily bloated because of the air placed in the colon during these exams.

When diverticulosis is present, spasm and thickening of the folds in the lower colon are also seen. This spasm and the difficulty it presents for the endoscopist in examining the colon may account for the severe pain you encountered.

In any case, if you are having severe abdominal pain now, you should follow up with your doctor now to evaluate it. He/she may want to do a colonoscopy or flex-sig in the future, and at that time you should express your concerns about your last exam.

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