What happens on the day

On the day of your colonoscopy you'll need to stop eating and drinking. Your letter will tell you when to stop.

You should also bring any medicines you take with you.

When you arrive

You'll speak with a nurse about what's going to happen. They will ask you to change into a hospital gown.

You may be offered things to make you more comfortable and make the test easier, such as:

Not all hospitals offer all these things – ask about what you can have.


You cannot drive for 24 hours if you have sedation. Someone will need to pick you up from hospital in a car or taxi.

Giving consent

A nurse or specialist will explain possible risks.

In rare cases, people may:

You'll be asked to sign a consent form. This is to confirm you understand the risks and agree to have the procedure.

It's important to remember these things are rare. If anything happens, the team will take care of you.

The colonoscopy procedure

It should take 30 to 45 minutes to have your colonoscopy.

But you might be at the hospital for around 2 hours from getting there to going home.

What happens What it might feel like
A thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside goes into your bottom You may feel the camera go in, but it should not hurt
Air is pumped in to open up your bowels You may feel a bit bloated or like you need the toilet
The tube goes through all of your large bowel You may have some stomach cramps
Any growths (polyps) in your bowels will be removed or a sample of cells taken You will not feel anything if this happens

After your colonoscopy is finished you'll usually be told if any growths (polyps) have been removed.

You'll then be moved to the recovery room. The nurses will monitor you until you're ready go home.

How you might feel after a colonoscopy

You might feel bloated or have stomach cramps for 2 to 3 hours after a colonoscopy.

You may also have some blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom for a couple of days. These things are common.

Urgent advice: Call 111 or the hospital where you had a colonoscopy if:

You have any of these things after having a colonoscopy:

  • heavy bleeding from your bottom or bleeding that's getting worse
  • severe stomach pain or pain that gets worse
  • a high temperature or you feel hot or shivery
What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities

Page last reviewed: 14 November 2022
Next review due: 14 November 2025