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May5 May5

Colonoscopy Without Sedation

I am writing this in the hope of reassuring a person that is preparing for a colonoscopy.

I am a woman in my mid thirties and have had a colonoscopy today without sedation and although offered, did not need the gas and air in the end either. The whole bowel was scoped.

I would best describe, the additional air, being put into the bowel to iron out the creases, as the scope goes a discomfort type of pain that rises in intensity then lowers, that passed after about 10 seconds of beginning (I think that's how long gas and air takes to work). This discomfort/pain happened two or three times throughout.

I had two polyps removed. It was possible to watch on the 'tv' screen but I didn't opt for that.

(The NHS Endoscopist and the Nurse which I conversed with about the procedure itself and many other things throughout the procedure were fantastic).

96 Replies

  • May5 May5

    I should also mention I watched on the tv screen for some of the procedure which was interesting to see but not when the polyps were removed.

  • jeanlyon jeanlyon

    I;m glad yours was OK - mine was not. The pain was indescribable and even the sedation made no difference.

    • elizabeth62526 elizabeth62526 jeanlyon

      Thank you jeanlyon. The same here. I had mine done yesterday. I am 62, and i opted for no sedation, but gas and air if i decided during the proceedure. I was in extreme pain from the first few minutes, and had to have the gas and air. My pain threshold is quite high, as i have had 4 children, and also had my leg crushed in a car crash 2 years ago, so i think i know something about pain. 

      Everything i had read, and been told, only ever mentioned " discomfort" and so i wasn't prepared for severe pain. Even with the gas and air, i was holding tightly to the nurse's hand for the first 10/15 minutes.

      I was told afterwards that everyone reacts differently, but i heard the comments of 2 different patients leaving after the proceedure, saying how painful it was, and they had been given the sedation/pain relief. 

      So ,... please be prepared !! I was not.

  • robaddi robaddi

    Had my colonoscopy a few years ago-and agreed to have the colonoscopy without sedation because I couldn't arrange for anyone to take me home afterwards-this is necessary if you are receiving sedation or anaesthesia.

    The pain I experienced was awful and after a few minutes I had to ask the consultant to stop-at that point I was clammy, sweating profusely and I could see from the pulse oxymetry monitor that my pulse rate was 160 BPM and felt I was going to pass out..

    Having been a nurse in acute care settings for over 25 years I knew that all of these indications were not normal however I had the presence of mind to halt the procedure when feeling unwell-the endoscopist and attending nurse seemed unconcerned and I believe would have carried on with the procedure.

    My point would be that however well meaning people might be in relating a positive experience of colonoscopy without sedation, everyone's experience will be different. I personally would not advise anyone to go ahead with the procedure without pain relief or sedation-healthcare professionals do not offer these on a whim but for good reason.

    Following my own experience I was offered a follow up appointment for colonoscopy where I received midazolam sedation and pethedine pain relief-I remember nothing else after this until the endoscopist gave me a tap on the shoulder to tell me the procedure was finished( about twenty minutes later).I was relaxed with no pain/discomfort.

    This time I was able to get a family member to come collect me afterwards.

  • michele25572 michele25572

    I am 54 and just this morning had my first colonoscopy without sedation, the only thing you need to be brave for is the prep and drinking the Movi Prep. The procedure was a piece of cake. The doctor expalined everything he was going to do and It was not painful at all. If you have ever had an enema it felt like expansion bloating and releasing thats it. There was one turn that was a little uncomfortable but basically in one breath it was over. In my opinion there is no need to have sedation for this. My advice is that during the prep you drink alot of water in between, and while you are waiting for your next run to the toilet you put a hot pad or hot water bottle on your belly. It was very soothing. When I got home I massaged my belly passed some gas and was good as new. Took a nap with my hot pad and now I am back at work in just a few hours. No reason to support the drug companies. Find a doctor that will work with you and enjoy watching your colon on the big screen. I was very lucky all clear and healthy.

    • Sonne Sonne michele25572

      What horrible advice!  Ok its your opinion but don't tell someone its not necessary.  Its a disgusting barbaric procedure to begin with unless you're into that type of thing.  I've never had one and never will, but for those that do, use the sedationand have no memory of being voluntarily molested

    • JeremiahJohnson JeremiahJohnson Sonne

      Wow... I have that exact same fear... I know exactly how your feeling and your saying this out of anger, trust me I know. I have a colonoscopy appointment tomorrow and I'm already p****d at the thought of forfeiting all my rights and control of my body, and that the medical team is free to do what ever they please to my body whether it being raped, purposely or carelessly damaging my stomach or even sabatoging it, leaving instruments inside, or to taking pleasure in having full control of my body. I know feel so angry right now. And I don't trust people in general especially those who are put in such a position of power over the patient. Because as humans, we are more likely to abuse that kind of power. And I hate the thought of someone taking advantage of their patients when their "versed"

  • TG1964 TG1964 May5

    I had a colonoscopy recently with sedation on the advice of two nurses and the consultant. The prep with no food and laxatives was much better than I anticipated as I had eaten lightly two days before. I was advised that I could watch the procedure on the screen but can only remember having the needle put in my arm and then waking up back in a room when it was all over. I honestly cannot remember feeling anything or talking to anyone so cannot say if it was painful or not.  I was advised that the drug used makes you forget (similar to the 'date rape' drug). In a way it is good that I don't remember, but in another, I wanted to be 'conscious' as I'm not sure if I was completely 'out' or not. Maybe I was talking to the team and moving when asked etc but I really can't remember. I felt a bit strange and only thought about this when I got home and wish I knew. Has anyone else experienced this?

  • Flopsy20 Flopsy20 May5

    I had a colonoscopy a couple of days ago without sedation, just with gas and air. It was horrific, I was in so much pain I could barely cope and when I took the gas and air it made me feel spaced out and sick. 

    They found evidence of crohns with nodules and inflammation present so maybe with the colon already inflamed, was why it hurt so much.

    i had several biopsies taken to find out how far the crohns had spread, and that may be why I am still in pain a couple of days later. 

    My advice to anyone in the future is to demand sedation, there is no way I can go through a colonoscopy again without it!!

    • bencooper bencooper Flopsy20

      I agree. The one I remember due to inadequate sedation was agony and had to be stopped. The ones I don't remember were fine. (Probably agony too! ). I have inflammation of the bowel too.

      Drug us.

    • vic23489 vic23489 Flopsy20

      Same here! If there EVER is a next time... I’ll definitely go for sedation. Which I firmly believe, should always be a clinical recommendation for this vital procedure.

      Health Complications aside, sedation  it is by far, the most distress lessening option.

       It is probably a NHS Cost reduction policy to offer a colonoscopy procedure without sedation?

      Personally, do not recommend that anyone takes the chance on being just comfortable with just gas and air. It spaces you out to a point where you lose your control on what’s actually being done to you.  I found the whole process disturbing – even though I am quite used to severe pain, owing to 17 years of ongoing Chronic back pain.

      I also represent PALS in another NHS field so I know full-well How to listen to patients concerns. That’s why a forum like this is SO important. Patients really need to feel empowered.

      As a patient you ALWAYS have the right to say NO - and that right should always be respected.

      This forum is Brilliant - just wish I’d come here before I made crucial decisions about a clinical procedure I knew little about.  In conclusion I’d add that on NO account be TOO afraid to ask searching question about what’s going to done to YOUR body. Again, that’s your intrinsic right. Good Luck – and never be Afraid to Ask.

    • rsteinbach90 rsteinbach90 vic23489

      I would go on to say that the patient should be given the full right to have sedation and pain relieve, full anaesthesia, or neither for a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.   We as patients should never be afraid to ask for options and if option you want is not given then be able to go to another place that does have that option.  The patient has the right to say NO!  I believe everyone should have the right to the inviolability of their physical body when capable of consent.

    • JeremiahJohnson JeremiahJohnson vic23489

      You my friend are a person who not only takes patient's concerns but actually truly care about the patient's well being, not because that is part of the job, but because in your heart you actually do care and strive to make it who you are as a representative in the medical field. All medical staff should be required to grow in this type of mentality, as in they have to be able to prove that they actually and honestly care

  • jackie 52126 jackie 52126 May5

    I read these comments last night and decided not to have sedation today for the colonoscopy.I have had two eye operations without sedation and consider myself able to be brave in these situations and hate the thought of being "out of it" for 24 hours.

    The doctor did her best to advise me to have sedation but I refused.

    It was agony !  The pushing upwards seemed relentless and was the worst pain I have ever had.Fortunately, I had only a small polyp near the bottom which was removed and the doctor stopped the procedure as she was satisfied I was clear.

    I honestly think you need strong painkillers and heavy sedation for this and as I am already a senior citizen I will never have this again.

  • christine58244 christine58244 May5

    I am waiting for my colonscopy appointment i will have sedation cos dont like pain and am wondering as I will be on my own will it be ok for me to get a taxi home afterwards as I have no relatives close by who would come with me

    • jackie 52126 jackie 52126 christine58244

      Christine,I was in the same position.The doctor will not allow you to leave the hospital until you have recovered from the sedation.I'm sure getting a taxi back will be O.K. after that but they do say that you are a bit woozy for a while.

      I think that we should be given the option of staying in the hospital if we are in this position.

      I know there is a shortage of beds but we are as entitled to one the same as anyone else.

    • mar26150 mar26150 christine58244

      christine, I am asuming you are in the UK.  I don't think they would like you to go home in a taxi, with sedation they want someone to be with you for 24 hours after.  I live alone and had nobody to stay with me, so sedation was a no no anyway.

  • sunny63 sunny63 May5

    Well I got back about 2 hours ago and opted for sedation, what a waste of time.  I felt everything and it was horrendous.  They had to stop half way as I couldnt bare it any longer.  They had supposedly given me sedation and pain killer through a canular.  I was fully awake and talking with the nurses throughout.  I now have to have a barium enema.  Fortunately the half they did manage to see was normal.  Never again!!!! I cant believe some people on here who have had sedation were so lucky to feel nothing. 

    • sunny63 sunny63 bencooper

      Thanks Bencooper, I actually slept for a couple of hours at 4pm after being so called sedated at 10 am, dont know whether that was a delayed reaction to the sedation or more the fact that I hadnt slept well from receiving the appointment (I think this was more the case) Its just so dissapointing when you pray for the procedure to be over. I now have to wait for a further procedure to find out if all ok.  The more I think about it, I would love to know why when the doctor knew how much I was suffering he didnt offer to increase the sedation and continue.  Maybe anyone reading this, if you have a similar experience ask during the procedure rather than let the doctor decide to end it and have to wait for a further investigation

    • bencooper bencooper sunny63

      Relax. I've had a barium enema. A piece of p....

      Think positive now.

      But keep hoping that each endoscopist has a colonoscopy without any sedation.

      That should keep you in a cheerful frame of mind.

  • joyjotting joyjotting May5

    Thanks for your reassurance and detailed description of what happened with your procedure...just waiting for my appointment letter for this lovely test!

    • joyjotting joyjotting

      Oh Dear! Hadn't realised that the original post by May5 was written over a year ago and hadn't seen all the replies. DOH! Can you tell I'm a novice at this forum?!

      After reading all the differing accounts here and the anecdotes of three close relatives of mine who've had very different experiences, I shall be opting for the maximum sedation and pain relief.

      I may have managed natural childbirth 26 years ago but.....!

  • mo37743 mo37743 May5

    This procedure is different for everyone. I used this forum to understand the various experiences of others. I had an awesome doctor - which is critical. Do your research and learn who is the best in this field. I also had a very clean bowel/colon - therefore the procedure was made less painful. However, every colon is different - obviously, and depending on how yours' is shaped, and you don't know until the doctor is in there taking a look and a drive with the scope - you may feel some pain. Because my colon is smaller - and we learned that during the procedure, expanding it with air in various areas to make the turns while going in with the scope was briefly very painful. Once the scope was in, there was no more pain - just some discomfort because of the process itself. I also learned that if you release air (fart) it will help and some people don't want to do that. Listen, you're on the table exposed for all those in the room to see - who cares. But, if you are doing it without sedation - do remember this. You can cause yourself harm if you jerk or move alot as your colon could get damaged by the scope. If you can tolerate about a 4 second pain on two to three turns of your colon and IF you've completed the prep the day before successfully - then you should be ok. Just remember, there will be some discomfort and for some there will be pain. I screamed three times so that I could let out my emotions rather than moving around. It helped.

  • Almora1 Almora1 May5

    I have had a lot of painful conditions / accidents/ operations and can tolerate pain quite well.  I had a sigmoidoscopy which was moderately painful but bearable but the nurse stopped as she could not get any further and said I would need a colonoscopy.  On arriving at the day surgery I was given the option of  gas and air or sedation. I repeatedly asked which one would be less painful but not get a clear answer. The endoscope nurse specialist said we could start with gas and air and if needed she could sedate me. The procedure got progressively more sore but I was so spaced out on the gas and air I could not talk and could not hear properly. They gave me buscopan which is something to stop bowel spasm. At this point the pain seemed to stop and I started with uncontrollable giggles. Unfortunately the pain restarted and they gave me some pain relief which did not help much. They eventually stopped without giving me sedation. They said I had quite severe diverticulosis which was causing the bowel to twist  and they did not get past the distal sigmoid so I have to go for a scan and will have to fast and take that yucky laxative. Incidentally I found it really helped to have a bottle of tropical lucazade to gulp between swallows of the laxative mixture which made it go down relatively easy.

  • rsteinbach90 rsteinbach90 May5

    I have had the same experience as you did, May5.  I had it done without sedation but in the states sedation is used in most of colonoscopies.   My clinic offered with and without sedation and the additional option of anaesthesia because of past problems with patients not tolerating sedated and pain controlled colonoscopies and upper GI endoscopies.  I have no idea why ours were so easily tolerated while other have horrific experiences even with sedation and pain control.   I know that the states tend not to use nitrous for sedation, they tend to use Versed and Profofol, neither which I can have or tolerate.   In fact the only place I've seen Nitrous used in the states is in the dentist office.  I am told by a friend who is a healthcare provider that abuse and theft of Nitrous by other healthcare providers is a significant problem in the states.

  • Kupotee Kupotee May5

    If you don't remember being hurt is it ok to be hurt ?

    is that ethical ?

    there are pk put there that work midazolam has no analgesic qualities and pethidine would need to be at pretty high doze to kill pain meaning an overnight stay .

    token amount ?

    I opted sedation free it hurt pure n simple but I was in control and memory intact .

    I would never put myself through another unless absolutely necessary 

    even I knew I would forget the pain I went through after .

    thought of simply forgetting pain creeps me out actually .

  • rsteinbach90 rsteinbach90 May5

    I am starting to notice a trend that would seem to be valuable in helping people decide what, if any, sedation would be needed for a colonoscopy.   Let's see if it squares with what you observe.

    I see people who tend to tolerate colonoscopies without sedation better have one or more of these traits:

    - They have easily tolerated sigmoidscopies without sedation

    - They are male because males tend to have straighter colons

    - Tend to be more calm and less anxious

    - Their curiousity tends to outweigh their fear of pain of a colonoscopy

    - Their fear of sedation is great enough to forego sedation

    - They tend to tolerate and function with really considerable gas pain and bloating, the stretching of the colon

    - They tend to not want to give up control of their situation unless they have to

    - They tend to trust their operator and clinic

    - They have other very strong motivations to do it without sedation

    - They tend not to have known diseases that affect the colon

    - They tend to have had tolerated other painful medical procedures without lingering mental anguish, with the possible exception of childbirth.  To be fair, literature indicates that childbirth seems to be a physiologically "unique" situation in terms of pain tolerance, meaning that the experience would be a poor predictor of pain tolerance in any other medical procedure.

    Do you agree or disagree?

    • camille27872 camille27872 rsteinbach90

      I am a 52 year woman, on 01/18/2016 i had my first colonoscopy. I did it without sedation no anesthesia or anything else. Reason i have a total fear of being knocked out so fast. On a scale of 1/10 i would say 3 for discomfort not pain. The discomfort seemed to be a bloating discomfort at least 3 times very heavy pushing feeling inside. Other than that a simple about 10 to 12 minutes when the doc said he was coming out it did not excite me because of simplicity. However might not be the same for everyone. I have tolerated pain and i consider myself strong when i said no anesthesia i met it and would not waste those at hospitals time. On the other hand the thought of this percedure someone up in there scoping and moving around might discourage others as knockout meds discourage me. Not about control but fear. Interesting huh? I think this is one reason most go this route. I might not wake up or being in the dark no dreams. Thank you!

    • mar26150 mar26150 camille27872

      Hi, thank you for sharing.  I am due for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy at the same time.  I chose no sedation but when I called to rearrange the apppointment although I told her I was not having sedation I was told that I WILL be sedated.  I am wondering if anybody else has had the choice? 

    • rsteinbach90 rsteinbach90 mar26150

      You should always have a choice of sedation.  Tell them you will have it done without sedation or not done at all.  Do not give them a choice.  I chose to forgo sedation for my Colonoscopy due to breathing problems (no opiods), egg allergy (no Profofol), and a history of overreactions to benzodiazepines.  If I had been sedated I could have been dangerously oversedated, had an allergic reaction, or possible respiratory suppression, any of which would have been difficult to reverse in the middle of the procedure.   This is why I will forgo sedation for most procedures.

    • mar26150 mar26150 rsteinbach90

      Thanks.  I do intend to discuss it with the nurse when I go.  I was told they offer sedation if I want and told them there and then no.  Unless I find it totally unbearable. I don't like woozy feelings or being out of control and I want to see it on the screen and remember it after the event.  I do have fibromyalgia which may be the reason.  They did remind me that I am having both at the same time.

      It is not for 3 weeks yet but will let you know how it goes.

    • raffie raffie mar26150

      Hello Mar:

      Hope everything goes fine for you.

      Like everyone says this test is tollerated differently by everyone.

      One thing I think the healthcare industry can and should do is replace the adult scope with the smaller diameter, extraflexible pediatric colonoscope for all procedures.

      I believe that scope combined with an expert endoscopist operating it would make the patient experience much better.

      Patient should always have the choice of sedation or not.

      I believe with the scenerio I described above, a patient might be able to get thru the test with just light pain mitigation.

      If I am a patient that doesn't want sedation & the facility is insistant about it, I walk away & find someone who will work with me.

      Nobody should have sedation forced upon them.

      Best regards,


    • mar26150 mar26150 raffie

      Thanks raffie. I had my gastro & colonoscopy this afternoon.  I did get through it without any sedation or gas & air and no painkillers.  I must admit the consultant doing it said he was amazed at how I coped, I didn't gag when it went down my throat, only a little discomfort during and entirely bearable.  As he came out it did make me lose a lot of gas like the biggest burp ever and was slightly uncomfortable.  Then on to the colonoscopy, it was, for me tolerable, but I do have an extremely high pain threshold, he commented that it was outstanding and had nothing but praise for me.  It was painful at times but nothing much worse than the worse wind pains you had ever had.  I didn't flinch but just kept calm even when he retroflexed the scope.  It was really interesting especially to see the scope looking back on itself.  He said he has had some people with sedation crying out in pain at this point and here I am having a craic with him. The nurses asked me how I managed it.  It all depends on getting the right mindset, 'in the zone' as it were.  You need to feel trust in the person doing it and if they are confident they will show it. When I did feel pain I disconnected with it and went with the flow.

      I had three polyps removed and a biopsy from the colon.  A biospy taken from a (lump?) in duodenum and I have a large polyp in the duodenum, too big for him to remove, so I am to have a CT to assess it and then it will be surgery to remove both.

      I hope this helps anyone who is worried, if you have a low pain threshold go for the sedation.  Most of all be calm relaxed and have trust in the operator.  We had quite a laugh, he said I am so funny.  If you don't laugh you cry.


    • darlene70977 darlene70977 camille27872

      My turn today. I am a 50 year old woman having a screening colonoscopy. I actually work in the GI Department at the hospital where I am having the colonoscopy done. I am opting out of having sedation for the simple reason that I fear it. Very bad previous experience. I am still prepping as I write this and am starting to be a little anxious about the procedure. I hope my experience goes as well as yours. BTW I am in Canada. I will try to return to let everyone know how it goes. Wish me luck!😊

  • tamara72500 tamara72500 May5

    If am a 56 year old woman and had my first colonoscopy today. I was not sure my husband could pick me up so I asked for no sedation. I have had two births with no drugs whatsoever and have had several kidney stones so I thought I may be able to get through the procedure without the drugs. So, they put a tube in my vein just in case I requested it during a pain event. The female doctor was very nice and they turned the bed so I could see the screen. It was amazing to see ones own colon. But as the scope traveled up the 4' of bowel the air inserted to expand the view and provide room for the scope gave me a severe cramp for probably 15 secs before I requested the sedative. Nice feeling of relief. I applaud the practice I went to for being willing to let me, as the patient, be a part of the decision process. I felt great when I woke up but don't remember anything the doctor said. Thank goodness my husband had arrived to drive me home. 

  • wilbur52 wilbur52 May5

    I just had a sedation free colonoscopy yesterday!  I was diagnosed with moderate UC 9 years ago, and have always hated the prep as well as the sedation. This time, I did a new prep, and opted for no sedation.  I am thrilled about both!  I did the Mirilax and Gatorade prep.  You mix 64 ounces of gatorade with one container of Mirilax, and take a few laxative tabets as well.  There is absolutely no taste to the Mirilax, which made the prep so much easier!  One thing that I would suggest to everyone that helped...I drank a lot of fluids (water, broth, popsicles etc.) all day before I started my prep at 4:00 p.m. This helped me avoid dehydration.  When I had my colonoscopy, there were a few turns that were a bit uncomfortable, but honestly, there was no pain whatsoever!  I would definitely do it again.  I left the recovery in a matter of minutes, went directly out to lunch, and was absolutely fine for the rest of the day.  Try it, you will be pleasantly surprised!!


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