Colonoscopy is an examination of the lining of the large intestine (colon) by means of a colonoscope. 
A colonoscope is a long flexible tube with a tiny video camera on the end. This is passed slowly through the anus and around the colon, enabling the lining of the colon to be directly visualised on a video screen to check for changes or abnormalities. 

Why would I need a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy may be recommended to:

  • Investigate signs and symptoms. Explore possible causes of blood loss from the bowel, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea and other intestinal problems
  • Screen for bowel (colon) cancer. Screening means testing people with a family history of colon cancer, colorectal cancer syndrome, or signs of these disorders. It is strongly recommended that men and women over the age of 50 are checked. Find out more about our screening service and screening guidelines.
  • Check for polyps. Re-examine the colon after a polyp or cancer has been removed previously to check that no new growths have developed
  • Bowel inflammation. Determine the extent and severity of any inflammation of the colon.

Preparing for your colonoscopy

Before a colonoscopy it is important that the bowel is completely clean. The cleaner the bowel, the easier and more thorough the examination will be. This requires a low residue diet 2 days prior and a combination of a clear liquid diet and a special laxative preparation the day before the procedure.

You will be given full bowel preparation instructions before your procedure.

What to expect for your colonoscopy

We perform colonoscopy procedures at locations in Christchurch, Queenstown, Wanaka and Pegasus. Your colonoscopy is performed in a calm, private environment in a procedure room at Intus. The examination is an outpatient procedure which usually lasts 20 – 45 minutes. 

It is our objective to keep you comfortable during the colonoscopy. Depending on your preferences, a light pain relief and sedative may be given to you prior to the examination. This is given through a vein and will help maintain your comfort during the examination. 

What to expect afterwards

At the completion of the examination you will be taken to a recovery area for a period of rest and observation. You will be given something to eat and drink.

If you have taken sedation, you may feel a bit groggy after your colonoscopy so you will need to rest until the effects of the sedative have passed; this usually takes an hour or so. It will be necessary for you to arrange someone to transport you home after the procedure and stay with you for the next 2-3 hours.

The results of the colonoscopy will be reviewed with you at the completion of the procedure and you will be receive a written report.

Frequently asked questions

A colonoscopy is normally performed within the specialised Endoscopy Suite at Intus. It does not need to be performed in a hospital environment unless a general anaesthetic is required. Find out more about our Endoscopy Suite at Intus.

Local anaesthetic is the throat spray used to numb the back of your mouth. Sedation is medication given intravenously to make you relaxed and drowsy during the procedure. Some patients will remain awake and some may fall into a light sleep. A general anaesthetic is a combination of medications given to render you completely unconscious. An anathetist is required to monitor your vital signs and breathing.

A colonoscopy requires a low residue diet 2 days prior and a combination of a clear liquid diet and a special laxative preparation the day before the procedure.

You will be given full bowel preparation instructions before your procedure.

If the procedure has been performed under sedation, recovery usually takes up to two hours after which time you will be able to eat or drink as you wish. If, however, you have had either of the procedures under general anaesthetic, recovery will take longer.

You should be able to resume normal activities the day after your procedure. However, you will not be able to drive for 24 hours following a general anaesthetic or sedation.

A written report is provided by your clinician after the procedure (with a copy to your GP) and further advice or diagnostic consultation are arranged as necessary.

You might have symptoms such as:

  • Blood in your stool when you go to the toiled (you might notice blood in the toilet bowl, on the toilet paper, or covering the stool).
  • A significant change in your bowel habits, such as having bowel movements more often each day or diarrhoea.
  • Unusual change in weight (loss or gain).

A colonoscopy is a test to check for disease inside your colon and rectum. Your colon and rectum make up the lower half of your gut and are often called your large bowel. A colonoscopy does not check your small (or upper) bowel, the clinician may recommend this check which is a gastroscopy.

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If you’re having a procedure with us, please see our Patient Resources for more detailed patient information on your procedure.