The diagnostic exam that helps in the early detection of precancerous and cancerous tissues found in the colon is called colonoscopy. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the higher the chances are that the cancer can be treated right away. A colonoscopy is also considered a life-saving procedure in many cases.
Unfortunately, while colonoscopy provides many benefits, some people are still reluctant and nervous about getting one as they don’t know what to expect during the procedure and the recovery phase that follows. Fortunately, there are many ways patients can feel comfortable during and after the procedure.
What to Expect During Recovery
The First 24 Hours
Since colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure, patients are able to head home on the same day. Since sedation is used during a colonoscopy, it is recommended that patients have someone accompany them when they need to go home since they can’t drive yet.
Once home, patients should spend at least the next 24 hours to fully rest and recover. It is normal to experience a few side effects after the procedure. Fortunately, most of the side effects are mild and minimal. Some of the common effects can be attributed to the sedation while others, to the procedure itself.
Other possible side effects of the procedure / sedation can include:
- Mild bloating or cramping
To ensure the comfort of patients, they will be provided with detailed and specific post-care instructions that they need to follow after the procedure. When strictly followed, patients can significantly minimize the possible risks of complications and help ensure the recovery period is smooth sailing.
The following tips can be especially beneficial especially during the first 24 hours after the procedure:
- Do not consume alcohol (at least for the first 24 hours)
- Ask for help from friends and family members to be with you (at least during the first 24 hours while you recover)
- To soften the stool, you can take over-the-counter fiber supplements
- Avoid strenuous activities like lifting heavy objects
- Take medications as prescribed by the doctor (this includes stool softeners and pain pills)
What to Expect the First Week After the Procedure
After a typical colonoscopy, most people can return to their usual activities after 24 hours. However, they should not think twice about getting more rest if they feel like they need it.
The recovery period will take longer if the doctor finds polyps and removes them during the procedure. Usually, at least a week will be needed for patients to recover fully. However, during said time, patients must avoid any strenuous activities like lifting heavy objects.
Possible Signs of Complications
In rare instances, some people might experience complications after the procedure. In similar cases, it is crucial that they closely monitor their recovery. It is also recommended that they look for potential complication signs like:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever or chills
- Bloody or black stool
- Inability to urinate
- Excessive bleeding of the rectum
- Severe discomfort
If any of the signs above manifest, it is advisable that patients visit their doctors right away. It would also be best to do your research or ask your doctors what to expect during and after the procedure so you will know what to expect.