My Colonoscopy, Unsedated

Posted , 9 users are following.

This time 3 days ago, I visited this site for reassurance ahead of a colonoscopy so I'd go in with no particular expectations, everyone's experience is different so for what it's worth, he's an overview of mine. For information, I'm 34, female, no children, small build. Never spent a night in hospital but procedures have included ultrasound, xray, barium, colposcopy, upper GI, cystoscopy...

Prep took place on Tuesday, restricted diet with a 9 Senokot tablet chaser! Never having suffered with food poisoning or stomach bugs, I half expected my innards to burst out straight away - they didn't thankfully. 2 hours later and I was on the loo, not a surprise but I wasn't there any longer than usual. I continued to eat and drink that day and had a decent nights sleep. Wednesday was the no food day - hands down the worst part - I was narky, headachy and a general pain and that was before the afternoon's Citramag. Even that wasn't too bad though, slightly lemonadey. It worked about 90 minutes later and my motions were then watery with no substance. Having to drink 6 pints of water on an empty stomach is a struggle and I probably only managed 5 throughout that day. The night before the procedure was spent drifting in and out of delirious sleep, on the loo (but again, for no time at all) and being miserable again. I didn't need to use the special wipes or Vaseline - there was no burning for me.

Up and out at 7.30am the next day, into the unit for 8.00am where I was escorted straight through for a chat. Chat over, got changed, had a cannula fitted, BP and pulse checked and most importantly, told where the loo was! 9.00am, called through to the dreaded room - not bad time wise. Here I was laid on a bed, pulse monitor fixed, laid on my side and discussed the pros and cons of no sedation. I like to have a clear head, I don't really like being tipsy - a control freak I suppose but I'm not particularly brave and I had no point to prove. In my hospital, around 1% of people go drug free, less for women. I was told quite honestly that it would be painful, that my build wouldn't help, and asked why I felt I didn't need it - stuck to my guns but with the cannula inserted anyway, I could change my mind during the procedure.

So, the business end. I was reassured throughout, told I could break wind whenever I felt, that I'd feel pushing and that I may feel as if I was going to release something unpleasant and that that wouldn't happen! The doctor stuck a swift finger up my bum to check for obstructions and within a minute, the camera was in. They key is to relax, easy to say but just do it, everything will be so much more pleasant! I felt the camera being fed through and each time we came to a bend, they told me and I held my breath. It felt very much as you'd expect, like a snake working its way through your innards but please be assured, that one the camera is in, the embarrassment dissipates, they don't stare at your bum :-). Yep, there were some uncomfortable bits but a bit of breath holding, change of position and getting a nurse to rub your belly, it's manageable. Once all the way in, I was happier, I knew it was going to be plain sailing from there and I started to think about what I'd have for lunch (shamefully, it was McDonald's!). I was free to look at the monitor throughout but I didn't really do that much and I have a lovely set of prints to take to my GP anyway!

Once done, I sat up, spoke to the doctor, was wheeled to the recovery area and offered a drink (but no biscuits, misers...). Blood pressure and pulse were taken and the unnecessary cannula removed. I chilled for 10 minutes and got dressed in my own time. No hanging around required for me and after a quick chat with a staff member and some paperwork, I was free to leave, drive and operate heavy machinery. The procedure took about 35-40 minutes and I was away just after 10am.

I came home, drank tea, ate salty food and stodge, slept in the afternoon and all has been well since. They found nothing so I'm still a medical mystery :-). I could have gone home alone but not having eaten, it was a good thing hubby was there.

Today I have spent as normal. I've not gone to work but am pottering about as usual, eating and drinking as usual and so far, nothing untoward has happened.

Sorry the post is so long but I wanted to give a positive story of a colonoscopy. I spent most of Tuesday online getting myself worried for nothing. I appreciate that everyone is different but you won't necessarily be the person who has an awful time of it. Yes, it's embarrassing but think of the potential alternative. Yes the prep is grim, but it won't always be horrific. You could break wind in front of strangers but they won't care (I didn't, but I had the hiccups all afternoon strangely!). Yes, you could experience pain, but it won't always be awful. You're in control, it's your body, you don't have to agree to anything, you don't have to carry on if you can't bear it but please, don't not go especially because of something you've read online. Your health is important, not only to you but to those who love you dearly. Wishing you all well x

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10 Replies

  • Posted

    Great write up that I am sure will reassure many still to go through it. I'm sure that it is just as easy for the majority. Those who have bad experiences with anything are the ones who (usually:-) ) have most to say.
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  • Posted

    Hello Caroline,

    I am scheduled for a colonoscophy next week and requested nonsedation.  The detailing of your experience was very helpful.  Thank you.

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  • Posted

    Hi I'm jess and I'm 14! My mum has to have a colonoscopy in about 4months time! I'm really worried about what is going to happen and I'm scared if something goes wrong! She had a endoscopy on 4th December 2014 and caused me a lot of worries days leading up to it and the night before! At school that day I was in a lot of trouble as I was distracted worrying about my mum! She has a hunched back from a car accident and is only 4ft 7! I'm really worried if something goes wrong! Should I be worried about anything happening? 
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  • Posted

    Hi! I just wanted to share my – unsedated - colonoscopy experience, as it may be of help to others! To get to the nuts and bolts of the experience, once the initial medical staff member explained how I was to use the prep medication (Moviprep) I expressed I didn't want to have any sedation on the day of the procedure. His reaction was one of surprise and he followed on by saying words to the effect of 'Why wouldn't you want it''  ''Everybody has it''  'Very few people have the procedure unsedated' etc.. Once I expressed to him that's what I'd decided, he just said I should mention it to the doctor carrying out the procedure on the day. 

     On the day of the procedure I spoke to a number of medical staff as an introduction to the Colonoscopy. In truth the few staff I spoke with, were again slightly surprised to hear I didn't want to be sedated for the procedure.... and continued to ask ''Are you sure'' ''Do you think you can have the procedure without it''.... to which I responded ''I KNOW I can have the procedure without it'' of course, all said in a polite, friendly and relaxed fashion! They did express that they could put 'a line' in my hand just in case I needed it or the discomfort became too much.

     Once inside the procedure room the doctor in charge was fantastic! He did not question the fact that I didn't want sedation at all! He was asked by the nurse in the room weather she should put an I.V in my hand...the doctor just responded by shaking his head which point I felt reassured as he was solely focusing on the procedure and what he was doing!  

    The procedure went well! Of course I wasn't completely anxious free in regards to the procedure but on the whole I was quite surprised how comfortable I felt. The only 'Uncomfortable' feeling I had during the process was the feeling you get when you really need to ''pass wind'' or ''go to the toilet'' and get a build up of pressure in your bowel! and you want to ''push out''. Having said that it didn't last long and before I knew it the procedure was over! In total the procedure took 15 minutes!

    Of course we all have different experiences...but my point here is there’s a definite sense that colonoscopy and sedation go hand in hand….but this is not the case. Though we have the choice to decline sedation, this decision may come as a surprise to medical staff, but if this is what you have decided then the choice is yours.

    Clearly this is my experience and opinion only but I would strongly recommend seeking medical advice on these areas, especially in relation to your own medical history.

    All the best x






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  • Posted

    Hi, i am going in next wednesday, not looking forward to it but as you say its got to be done for the sake of your health. Thanks for telling us about your experience i'll let you know how i get on! Thanks jimmy.
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  • Posted


    My experience was a lot like yours, however; I "wussed out" from the pain and the doc only made it passed the sigmoid colon

    before I made him stop. As a 50 yr. old man 5 foot 11", 190 lbs, I chose no sedation, and I should not have. Here in Boston, all Colonoscopies are done with propofol, if asked for. 2 tiny rectal

    polyps were biopsied, probably nothing, at least I had the

    equivalent of a flexible sigmoidoscopy and my FOBT was

    negative. Will try a virtual CT colon scan. Congrats to all those

    who do "The Procedure" with no sedation. If I ever do it again,

    knock me out !

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  • Posted

    Good to hear your story.  Mine was very similar.  I also had a gastroscopy at the same time.  They didn't put a canula in beforehand because I had said no sedation.  I didn't need the Enotonox either.

    I really do think being relaxed and trying to relax your tummy as much as possible helps.  It is only the air pumped in that causes discomfort not the scope.  A bit like wind pains but quite tolerable for me anyway.

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  • Posted

    I know this is an older thread but it's one of the first things that comes up when searching unsedated colonoscopy, so want to chime in.

    Had my first colonoscopy a couple of days ago. Opted for unsedated because I dread any kind of sedation or anything that makes me feel "out of it." My doctor was fine with it, although doubtful I could finish the procedure without sedation.

    It was uncomfortable and at times unpleasant but I did it! And it was great to be able to walk out of the procedure room, spend a few minutes in recovery, and then drive myself home. 

    Women tend to have more "twisty" colons than men so unsedated can be harder for  us but I encourage anyone who wants to forgo meds to try it. 

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  • Posted

    Hi Caroline .... I have been searching the Internet for days now as I am booked to have a colonoscopy .. I read your review and I think it's wonderful ... I am really hoping my experience is like yours. I have made myself a nervous wreck over the past couple of days and I am funding it hard to feel in control again. Your review helped a little ....thankyou

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  • Posted

    40 year old male, just ( 2 hours ago) had my first colonoscopy today (unsedated). Below is a synopsis of my experience.

    Anxiety: I've had a trapped gas feeling in my left side for the past 3 years. I told my doctors about this feeling and they didn't seem concerned. Flash forward to this year, I've had 2 bloody stools...bright red blood visible in the toilet and on the paper and cramps lasting up to 2ish weeks. Isolated incidences, but the blood got the doctor's attention. Colonoscopy scheduled. I started having anxiety about my left side feeling pretty quickly, and thanks to google, my anxiety increased throughout the next few years (DO NOT USE THE INTERNET AS A DIAGNOSIS TOOL--IT WILL F WITH YOUR BRAIN AND MAKE YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO DIE). When blood entered into the picture, I was having trouble functioning at work and in my home life. I was consumed with fear of the unknown. Because I have anxiety, I've been dreading this week (the week of the colonoscopy) for many reasons. Like many with anxiety, control is a very important thing and I knew pretty quickly, especially after checking this site, that I was going to do this without sedation. My thought was, if my wife can have 2 natural births (which she did), certainly I can deal with a 20ish minute procedure...

    Prep: not as bad as I thought it would be. I used SuPrep, which has 2 8oz bottles that you mix with water. Imagine crushing a bunch of really sweet candy (mostly cherry) and drinking was that. Made me feel a little noxious, but the actual extraction wasn't bad--mostly liquid. Watched 3 episodes of Westworld to keep my mind off the liquid pool. I spent about an hour on the toilet with a 10 minute reprieve and then another hour. After the second hour, I was able to go to sleep. Hunger was never an issue--just thirst after the second bottle. By an hour before the prep, I had my last trip to the bathroom. It was essentially yellowish see through water (looked like pee). This is how it's supposed to look.

    The procedure: Was put in a hospital gown and given an IV. IV was fantastic as I felt very low energy and dehydrated. The anistesiologist came by and tried to change my mind..."I've got some great drugs..."  I declined. In a matter of minutes, I was wheeled into the procedure room...this was actually happening. The doctor and the nurses were very friendly; he asked me if I had any questions ( I didn't) and then he stuck his lubed up finger up my bum (I believe this is a quick check for obstructions). They had me lie on my left side (facing the screen). The snake was inserted and began to make it's initial probe. I'll use a scale of 1-10 for the descriptions. Initially, I'd say it was a 2, mostly just pressure with the oddness of feeling something crawling through your intestines. The first turn was definitely a great deal of pressure, more like a 4, but only lasted 5 or 6 seconds. Every time it got painful, I squeezed the nurses hand and occasionally groaned...the doctor was very attentive to my reactions. As it got further in (and closer to the end of my colon), the pain definitely increased, but just in spurts. I'd say at one point it reached a 6 or 7, but just for a second--they immediately asked if I wanted sedation, and I replied "hell no!" But I did kind of want it for that second. After a few more painful episodes, we reached the end of the colon. At this point, he told me to take a look at the screen (if I wanted to) to see what he was examining...apparently, the examination begins when they reach the area near your appendix and the small intestinal opening. Moving backwards was not painful at all...maybe a one at times. There were moments where I felt like there was pressure and told the dr...he would immediately turn the air off and the symptoms would go away. It was quite fascinating to see the entire track of my colon--he pointed out the appendix, the liver, and the different canals along the way. It was fascinating and I almost forgot that there was a 6 foot snake inside me! Coming out, the only part that was mildly uncomfortable was the anal passage (right at the end). Because it's tight by nature, it was a little more like traveling forwards (about a 4). The Dr and nurses were quite impressed that I went through with it all the way (apparently many try and can't handle it). Things that helped me---breathing deeply during the most painful moments; staying present in my mind; speaking up to the doctor when something felt painful; groaning out loud--it really helped.

    Would I do it again--well, who wants to do a colonoscopy in the first place. For my next one, I would also decline sedation. IT's DOABLE and it's not a long procedure. Mentally prepare yourself to be uncomfortable for about 20 minutes. Then you walk out the door and can function in the real world (without the sedation effects). 

    Afterwards: had a great was almost pornographic it was so good. There is a lot of trapped air in my colon (be careful with breaking wind--it may have some remnants). That should go away in the next 24 hours. Apparently, the SuPrep is still in your system for a while and can continue to push things through looser than normal.

    Colonoscopy VS Cystoscopy ----I've had both now and neither are particularly fun. The cystoscopy was definitely more painful, but there were fewer tubes to travel down, making it quicker. Not sure I'd choose one over the other, but both are doable without sedation.

    In case you're wondering diagnosis, the colon looks great. I have internal hemorrhoids (which caused the blood) and a possible smudge of IBS. So relieved that I went through with it (and unsedated). It was worth the price of knowing/peace of mind. I did not do well with dealing with anxiety leading up to the procedure, but something that really helped was watching an actual colonoscopy on YouTube. It really helped me to mentally prepare---they say, know your enemy/fears. Good luck to everyone (whether seated or not)!


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