Founded in 1856, St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is one of the UK’s largest independent charitable hospitals. Our commitment to our patients is in the quality of our care, the range of our services and the quality of our consultants and staff.
St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is renowned for its highly specialised clinics that provide exemplary care for patients. Our expert Consultants cover the full range of specialties and are able to treat almost any medical condition.
Lots of people have polyps and most of the time they’re harmless. But they can sometimes become cancer, so if they’re found they need to be checked.
The good thing about a colonoscopy is that polyps can be removed during the procedure and tested. By removing polyps before they can become cancer, your cancer risk will be reduced.
Most of the time, we won’t find anything you need to worry about during a colonoscopy. However, a normal result will also help us rule out possible causes of your symptoms, bringing you one step closer to a diagnosis.
What happens during a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is usually done as an outpatient or day case. It normally takes around 30-45 minutes. We strongly recommend being sedated for the procedure, which will help you relax and feel more comfortable. This is usually given by an injection into a vein in your arm. The sedative will make you feel drowsy, but you’ll still be awake and aware of what’s happening.
We will ask you to lie on your side on a couch with your knees slightly bent. Your doctor will gently pass colonoscope into your bottom and then have a good look at your bowel. You’ll be able to see what your doctor sees, as the camera transmits the video onto a TV screen by the couch.
You doctor will then gently pump carbon dioxide gas inside. This opens up you bowel so that they can see the lining clearly. This can make you feel like you need the toilet, and cause some cramping and bloating. If you feel like you need to pass wind, don’t worry – this is completely normal. It’s best to let the wind out as otherwise it can be quite painful.
During your colonoscopy, some biopsies (small samples) of your bowel lining might be taken. This is painless. The samples will be sent to a lab for testing. If your doctor finds them, you may also have some polyps removed. These are small growths in your lining that could potentially turn into cancer. Removing these will reduce your cancer risk, which is a huge benefit.
How to prepare
Your doctor will let you know exactly how to prepare for your test. If you have diabetes, take blood thinners, have a pacemaker, or take certain medications, this can affect how you prepare, so make sure to talk to your doctor so you can prepare with confidence.
Generally, preparing for your test will look like this:
Seven days before You will need to stop taking:
These stain the bowel and make it harder to see.
You will also need to stop taking fibre supplements, although other laxatives are ok to keep taking.
If you take any gut medicines, or stronger pain killers – check with your doctor if you can keep taking these or whether you need to stop.
Two days before You will need to start eating a low fibre diet. This will help make sure nothing is left over in your bowel once you’ve taken the bowel prep (a strong laxative).
If your bowel isn’t empty, the doctor won’t be able to see your bowel properly and may need to cancel your colonoscopy. This will mean you need to go through the bowel prep again, and if your procedure is being covered by insurance, you could get into difficulties, as they may refuse to cover the rescheduled procedure.
The day before You will need to stop eating solid food 24 hours before your procedure and then take your bowel prep. The time of your last meal will depend on whether you have a morning or afternoon appointment.
Make sure you’ve checked your appointment and are completely sure when you should start fasting and when you can start drinking the bowel prep.
Once the bowel prep starts working, you should expect frequent bowel actions and eventually diarrhoea. Some cramping is normal.
Our top tips
Use a barrier cream after each bowel action, to help reduce soreness.
Using wet wipes, rather than toilet tissue, will be gentler on your skin and help reduce soreness.
Bowel prep is designed to empty your bowels completely, and therefore it’s easy to get dehydrated. You can feel cold when you’re dehydrated, so drink plenty of fluids – at least ½ pint or one glass every hour (hot drinks will especially help) and keep a warm blanket with you.
You will find that you need to stay very close to the toilet for a few hours, so once the bowel prep starts working, keep a phone and a charger, or a book with you.
Most people are ready to go home after resting for an hour or so. You may need to stay a bit longer for observation if you have had any polyps removed.
The sedative will normally make you feel quite pleasant and relaxed. However, you should not drive, operate machinery or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having the sedative. You will need somebody to take you home look after you for 24 hours until the effects have fully worn off. Most people can get back to normal the next day.
Your doctor will let you know the results straight away and what your next steps will be. You will be given a report to take home, as well as a copy which you can give to your GP. If you have had any polyps removed or a biopsy, the results should be ready in around one week.
To discuss your results and next steps, book a follow-up appointment with your doctor.
To ask a question about a colonoscopy or to book an appointment, contact our specialist team available Monday to Friday 8am – 6pm or Saturday 9am – 1pm.
Our GI team are caring and friendly and will find you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist for your needs.
The GI Unit is supported by a multidisciplinary team of medical and surgical consultants. Our expert team treats and supports patients with any gastrointestinal conditions.
Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.
Make an enquiry
If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 7078 3802.
Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.
If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.
If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.
If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.
*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.
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