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What to Expect During Endoscopy

Colonoscopy: Stool and other debris obscures visualizing the lining of the colon, decreases the quality of the test, and unnecessarily prolongs the procedure. Thus a proper preparation is essential to a colonoscopy. Starting the day before the test, the patient should only consume a clear liquid diet, as well as take the bowel preparation as prescribed by the physician. This purges the colon of stool and debris.

Sigmoidoscopy: Preparation often requires only taking enema preparations the night before and morning of the exam.

EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy): Preparing for an EGD is quite simple. You should not eat or drink anything beginning at midnight before the test. This ensures that the stomach is empty. This also reduces the risk of vomiting retained stomach contents.

Sedation: Sigmoidoscopy is usually performed without sedation, since it is a very brief procedure, making the added risks of sedation unnecessary. Colonoscopy, EGD, and ERCP are typically performed under conscious sedation. The patient is monitored very closely with heart monitor leads placed on the chest, a blood pressure cuff, and an oxygen monitor placed on a finger. In the procedure room, a drug is given intravenously to prevent discomfort and another sedative is given to promote relaxation. Once comfortably sedated, the test will begin. If you do not feel comfortable, make sure to tell your doctor. Everyone responds to sedation differently, and your doctor may need to make adjustments. Don’t be afraid to speak up — your health care team can better assist you in making these procedures less unpleasant if they know you are feeling uncomfortable. You usually will not remember the procedure. A typical EGD is completed in 10 to 15 minutes while a typical colonoscopy is completed in 20 to 40 minutes. Many things can affect the length of the test, including your own unique anatomy (for example, if you have had previous bowel surgery), improper preparation, and the number of biopsies required. In very young patients, generally anesthesia is employed for EGD or colonoscopy.

Although endoscopic tests are considered to be routine and safe, no procedure is completely risk-free. Risks of endoscopy can be divided into those related to sedation and those related to the procedure itself. Sedation can produce blood pressure or breathing problems in some patients. Very rare complications of endoscopy include perforation (a rupture or tear in the intestine), bleeding, and infection. The informed consent process for the procedure will allow your physician to review these risks and answer any questions you may have.