Digestive System Home > Colonoscopy Procedure

In most cases, a colonoscopy takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on what is found during the procedure. A colonoscopy will involve the use of an instrument called a colonoscope, which is inserted into your rectum. This acts as a camera so that the physician can see the inside of your digestive system on a video screen.

The Colonoscopy Procedure: An Overview

A colonoscopy is a procedure that lets your physician look inside your entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. During a colonoscopy procedure, your doctor will use a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a long, soft, bendable tube. This instrument acts as a camera, and allows your doctor to view the inside of your digestive system on a video screen. It can also take pictures and videotape the procedure.

Preparing for the Procedure

Once you and your doctor are ready, you will be given medications, and sometimes fluid, through your IV to help relax and comfort you during the procedure. You will be asked to lie on your left side and bring your knees toward your chest.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Once you are comfortable in the proper position, your doctor will begin by performing a gentle finger examination of your rectum wearing a clean, lubricated glove. Then the flexible endoscope will be lubricated and placed inside. You will feel a little pressure when this happens. The endoscope is then carefully moved up through your rectum and colon.
To see this area better, your colon may be gently filled with a small quantity of air or water through the endoscope. This might cause you to feel full or bloated. This discomfort is usually brief and goes away when the air is withdrawn.
To help guide the endoscope, healthcare providers might gently press on your abdomen or have you change position to your back or your right side for a short time during the procedure.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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