Colonoscopy FAQs


Why is a colonoscopy so important?

A colonoscopy lets your doctor see the lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). Using a thin flexible tube (endoscope), your doctor can look inside your colon for problems such as swelling, tumors or growths (polyps). If your doctor thinks an area of the lining needs to be looked at more closely, he will take a small piece of tissue (biopsy) and send it to the lab to be examined. If the doctor finds polyps on the lining of the colon, they may be removed. Polyps vary in size from a tiny dot to several inches. Most polyps are non-cancerous but the doctor cannot tell a non-cancerous polyp from a cancerous one by its appearance. For this reason, if the doctor removes a polyp, it is sent to the lab for further tests. Removal of polyps is important in preventing colon cancer.

What is a colon cancer screening?

“Screening” is a term used to describe a test for the early diagnosis of common cancers, ordered before symptoms develop. For patients with no family history of colon cancer, the American Cancer Society’s current recommendation is to have your first colonoscopy at age 45. However, insurance coverage may not be available until age 50. Be sure to check with your insurance company in advance.

Will my colonoscopy hurt?

Patients are sedated with anesthesia during colon cancer screenings, so you will not feel a thing! Your GI specialist will perform the procedure at one of our endoscopy centers, specially designed to put patients at ease.

What are the signs I need a colonoscopy?

The following symptoms indicate that it may be time to consult your GI doctor and schedule a colonoscopy:

  • Changing bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bowels that do not feel completely empty
  • Bright red or dark blood in stool
  • Narrow or thinner than usual stools
  • Abdominal discomfort accompanied by painful gas, bloating, fullness, or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and excessive tiredness
  • Iron-deficiency anemia indicating a low number of red blood cells

If any of the above symptoms worsen or persist for several weeks, contact Charleston GI.

How long will colonoscopy prep last?

While the exact amount of time varies from patient to patient, a good bowel flush can take up to 16 hours – typically starting the afternoon/evening before your procedure. Be sure to follow your GI doctor’s bowel prep instructions.

Will I have a bowel movement during a colonoscopy?

No. Bowel movements usually stop about 2 or 3 hours after finishing the colon prep solution. Plus, the scope’s suction feature is used to remove any liquid left in the bowel.

What if I’ve taken all my colonoscopy preparation and am still passing solid stool on the day of my exam?

If this occurs, your GI specialist will simply reschedule your colorectal cancer screening. You may be prescribed a different preparation for next time. When you call to reschedule, your Charleston GI doctor will give you further follow-up instructions.

How do I know when my bowels are empty?

When your bowel movement looks like the fluid you are drinking (light, yellow, liquid with minimal particles), you are all set!

Can I eat right after my colonoscopy?

Yes, you can eat normally after your procedure. However, our gastroenterologists recommend eating light meals if you feel bloated or are having difficulty passing gas within the first 24 hours post-procedure. Be sure to avoid alcohol during this time.

How will I feel after my colonoscopy?

Patients typically feel bloated or gassy for a few hours after their colonoscopy, due to the air leaving the colon. Walking can help provide some relief if you feel uncomfortable. You may also notice a small amount of blood the first time you have a bowel movement – but this is completely normal!

Is it normal to feel tired the day after a colonoscopy?

You will likely feel groggy on the way home as the sedation leaves your system. That is why you will need someone to drive you home. But you should feel normal by the next day.

Can I have hemorrhoids removed during a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy with three-quadrant hemorrhoidal ligation is considered an effective method of treating symptomatic internal hemorrhoids. Plus, it eliminates the need for a separate procedure.

What if I vomit during colonoscopy prep?

While relatively uncommon, some patients may feel the urge to vomit. If you do, stop drinking the solution for one hour, then resume according to the normal dosing directions. If vomiting continues for several hours, contact your Charleston GI specialist.

How long does a colonoscopy take?

Most colonoscopies take 30 minutes to an hour. You will be asked to arrive 1 hour prior to your procedure, so your total time will be around 1.5 to 2 hours.

Will I need to miss work?

Yes. Because the procedure will be done with anesthesia or sedation, you will not be fit to return to work until the following day.

Will I be in a private room?

Colonoscopies performed at our Center are always done in a private room with no other patients around. Our physicians and nurses are professional and remain dedicated to respecting our patients’ privacy.

Doctor said drink clear liquids, is coffee considered a clear liquid?

Yes. Coffee and tea with sugar, but no creamer or anything to cloud them, are considered clear liquids. Water, soda, non-pulpy juice, jello, clear soup (broth, consommé, etc) and popsicles are also clear liquids. Milk or cream are NOT.

Will I need someone to drive me home?

Yes. Due to the type of anesthesia or sedation that is given during your procedure, our endoscopy centers require that you bring a responsible adult to stay during your procedure and drive you home afterwards. Please note: Regulatory agencies require our facilities to discharge all patients with a responsible adult driver. If you do not have a responsible adult driver with you, your procedure will be canceled.

Where are the procedures performed?

Currently, our physicians perform procedures at our endoscopy centers, conveniently located to minimize hassle.

Procedures are also performed at the Roper Hospital facility.

Can I Take My Medication The Day Of The Colonoscopy?

If you are taking medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety or seizure disorders, you will typically be advised to take these the day of your procedure unless otherwise instructed by your physician. If you are taking blood thinners or medication for diabetes, make sure your physician is aware for further medication instruction. Once your procedure is completed, you will receive instructions for resuming medications and diet at discharge.

Who performs the colonoscopy?

One of our board certified Charleston GI physicians.

What if my physician finds something during the colonoscopy?

If a polyp is found, your physician will most likely remove it because it could eventually become cancerous. If your physician sees a tumor, or anything else abnormal, a biopsy is often performed. For the biopsy, a special instrument is used to take out a small piece of tissue through the endoscope. It is then sent to a lab to be checked for cancerous or precancerous cells and/or other abnormalities.

Can I return to normal activities and return back to work the day after my colonoscopy?

Yes, in most cases you can resume normal activities the following day.

Will my insurance cover my colonoscopy screenings?

Some insurance companies pay for screening colonoscopies, but every insurance plan carries different benefits depending on the employer. We will not be able to tell you if your particular plan covers this benefit until we obtain your insurance information. We suggest you contact your specific insurance carrier before scheduling your procedure. Our billing office is also available at 843-793-5182 to answer questions.

Do I need to contact my insurance company before my colonoscopy procedure?

Yes. Although our Patient Accounting Department will contact your insurance company for precertification requirements and coverage information, we do recommend that you verify your coverage to ensure that your insurance company has your current information on file.

Why am I getting to bills for my colonoscopy?

Charleston Gastroenterology Specialists and our endoscopy centers function as two separate entities – and therefore, bill separately. Just think of Charleston Gastroenterology as the professional part and Charleston Endoscopy as the facility part. When you have a procedure, you will get a bill for the professional fee as well as a bill for the facility fee. If you have any further questions, please contact our Patient Accounting Department at 843-722-8000.

What is an open access colonoscopy?

Open Access Colonoscopy is a program designed to allow well patients without gastrointestinal symptoms to have a colonoscopy without the inconvenience of a preliminary office visit.

How do I enroll in open access colonoscopy program?

If you feel that you would be a good candidate for this program, you may contact our office at 843-722-8000. Please leave your name, telephone number and a convenient time for our Open Access Representative to contact you.

How long will it take to get my prescription refill?

Please allow 24 to 48 hours for prescription refills.

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