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I am making this post on my experiences with Diverticular Disease and Colonoscopies - the good and the bad parts - in the hope that it will help others and add to the information already posted by other users.
I was diagnosed with moderate Diverticular Disease 15 years ago aged 51, after I had a severe attack of Diverticulitis, with swamping pain and passing blood, so was referred to hospital by my GP. I had to take Picalax as part of the prep then, and did not find it too bad, although I did struggle with the hunger and liquid only part of the diet that was standard procedure at that time. It was quite fierce for a few hours after each treatment. I remember very little of the Colonoscopy as I was heavily sedated, just that I cried out in pain whilst in a vague dreamlike state. The Consultant Endoscopist told me he was unable to complete the examination due to the location of the diverticula, and I was then referred for a barium enema. This confirmed the disease and I was sent back to my GP with no treatment required.
Over the years I stuck to the high fibre, low fat, gluten free diet recommended by my GP and had only three flare ups, until this year. 3 months ago I started having symptoms so went back for the usual antibiotic cocktail of Cetaflexin and Metronidazole. These were prescribed by phone and for the first time ever, had no effect. I duly called back and was passed the message by a clerk that "these things take time and be patient". After 7 further weeks of constant pain I went back. Phone consultations have their place and can be a good use or resources, but this time I insisted on seeing a doctor. She examined me and did not hesitate. I was immediately referred for bowel cancer screening under the 2 week urgent programme.
This time I was asked to prepare for a Colonoscopy with Moviprep, and when I asked for Picalax, was told the hospital had changed its preparation method as some people reacted to Picalax. I also pointed out that the hospital had been unsuccessful 15 years ago, but nobody took any notice of that, and said I had to have the standard Colonoscopy.
I did not find the diet preparation and fluid only part at all difficult. I got by on herbal tea, Waitrose chicken consomme, and clear apple juice. Also you are now able to eat certain foods like white bread, white pasta and white rice, plus eggs, steamed white fish and grilled chicken until about 48 hours before the examination. I should imagine though that vegetarians would struggle.
I can only describe the Moviprep as grim. You have to get down 1 litre of the mixture plus half a litre of water over a one hour period. Despite me advising the hospital I had a hiatus hernia and could not take acidic liquids, the Moviprep has lemon acid flavouring which triggered my acid reflux. As you can imagine, it was a real struggle to get in down and keep it down. You are advised to stay near a toilet and I would go further than that. I would advise anyone to prepare in advance in your bathroom, with a good book/kindle/tablet, music, spare toilet rolls, some sort of barrier cream (I used Vaseline and Drapolene), some wet wipes, plenty of old towels and flannels for washing yourself, old pants, and get a supply of incontinence pads.
At 6.45pm I was half way through glass 3 after 30 minutes, when the effects struck, down in the kitchen, and I did not make it to the bathroom in time, so I would also advise you to be ready to take the 3rd and later preps in the bathroom. There I stayed for 5 hours, then donned the incontinence pad, and managed catnaps for the next 6 hours, having to get up every 15 to 30 minutes.
The second prep at 6am was much harder but this time I was better prepared. I was due to leave at 12.15pm to get the bus to the hospital, but at 11.45am I was still using the toilet every few minutes. I calculated I had in fact been using the toilet every 2 - 30 minutes for 17 hours. I realised I could never do the 2 hour journey by public transport, and had to ask my neighbour to take me to hospital, via the toilet at Tesco en route.
I duly arived at 2.40 pm for my appointment and at 5.20pm was still in the waiting area. The friend who was staying with me overnight had come to collect me at 4pm and was forced to wait around. I was advised there had been delays, emergencies and difficult procedures for which the hospital apologised. I was eventually the only person left and finally taken in about 5.30 pm, very aware that the department would be closing shortly.
To my surprise, the Consultant Endoscopist was the same person who had seen me 15 years earlier and had refreshed his memory with the original notes. This time the sedation seemed to have no effect whatsoever, as I remember everything very clearly. Within a very short time, the procedure was halted, as again he could not complete the examination. I got the feeling he was expecting this, and also it was past closing time. This time he advised me my Diverticular Disease was now very severe, and that he felt I may need a sigmoid colectomy. I was referred for a CT Colonoscopy to ascertain the extent of the disease, and whether of not anything else more sinister is going on. I was rapidly bundled out of the department, whilst still unsteady on my feet, by the last 2 people left, and the doors were closed behind me.
So all in all, not a good experience, although I did not suffer the extreme pain that some people have reported, as the Consultant did not try and force things. I was also left with a very sore bruised hand for 10 days. I had no appetite for a couple of days, and as soon as I did eat, it seemed that the Moviprep was still working.
A week later I had the CT Colonoscopy, and the whole experience could not have been more different. The diet was the same, but this time the prep was Gastrographin. I was all prepared for a repeat performance, but there was no problem getting down 100ml of aniseed flavoured liquid. It seemed to have no effect and I had a good night's sleep with the precaution of an incontinence pad. During the next day I had no urgent need for the bathroom, until after I had taken the 2nd prep. Then I stayed in the bathroom for 4 hours, but only needed to get up twice during the night.
There was no difficulty getting to the hospital for my 10.20am appointment, and I was actually called in early, before I could even sit down. I had not had a scan before and had been told they were noisy claustrophic things but did not find this at all the case for the type of scan I had. The nurse at my request used my other arm to put in the line (after seeing the bruise from the previous week) and explained the side effects I might feel from the medication. One does give you a very dry mouth and another does give you a warm feeling as it is administered. It can also affect your vision and I was advised not to drive until my sight had returned to normal - usually about 20 minutes.
You are warned that you might feel the need to empty your bladder and that the insertion of the gas will make you feel bloated. I did find that the gas gave me a feeling of stomach cramps but it was just a bit uncomfortable, not unbearable. The actual scans numbered 4 in my case, and each one just took a few seconds, not having to stay still for minutes on end as I had expected. Then it was all over - an efficient, professional experience with minimum discomfort. I went to the cafe and had a cup of tea and roll, and from arrival to departure, including the cafe, I was in the hospital for just 70 minutes.
So now I wait for the results, and just hope there is no sign of cancer in the areas that the original Colonoscopy could not see. Diverticular Disease is a nasty painful illness, in my case the result of a longer than normal colon with extra bends, (according to my copy of the report, which I cross referenced to the Internet to decipher the medical terms). So I suspect I was probably prone to developing the disease despite loving my vegetables. It seems I may be facing surgery in the future, but I'll meet that bridge when I come to it. One positive outcome - I have lost 10 pounds in the two weeks of preparation, and intend to continue to try and lose weight, as I am sure it will help.
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