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Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy

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Consultants who perform this procedure

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Why would I need a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

Patients needing a gastroscopy usually do so because they have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Acid reflux, heartburn or indigestion
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Anaemia

Patients needing a colonoscopy usually do so because they have bowel symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhoea
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained tiredness or anaemia

Sometimes patients only require a gastroscopy (also called an endoscopy) and others only require a colonoscopy, depending on their symptoms. This dual procedure relates to having both procedures carried out at the same time.

What symptoms does a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure address?

This dual procedure doesn’t provide treatment for any symptoms. Instead, it’s a diagnostic procedure that can give specialists a better idea of what might be causing your upper and/or lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.

It can diagnose or rule out conditions such as a hiatus hernia, bowel cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or diverticular disease.

Some patients have this procedure because they have a health condition such as a hiatus hernia or Crohn’s disease, or a family or personal history of bowel or stomach cancer and their specialist needs to check the progression of their condition.

When should you speak to your specialist about a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

If you have pain or discomfort in your upper GI system (your oesophagus or stomach) or your lower GI system (bowel or rectum) then speak to a specialist who can assess your suitability for this procedure.

How is a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure performed?

This dual procedure is carried out under sedation, which means that you’ll be sleepy and relaxed throughout. The gastroscopy usually takes around 15 minutes and the colonoscopy around 45 minutes. You’ll be able to return home the same day.

Usually, your medical team will perform the gastroscopy first and will give you a throat spray to numb the throat. Whilst laying on your left hand side, your specialist will pass a long, thin tube down your throat called an endoscope.

An endoscope is a flexible tube with a camera on the end which allows your specialist to get a clear view of your oesophagus on a nearby screen. Once they’ve finished the gastroscopy, they will pass a different endoscope into your large bowel via your back passage. Again, the endoscopic camera will allow your specialist to clearly view the length of your large bowel on a nearby screen. They may need to inflate your abdomen with carbon dioxide gas to get a clearer view.

If they find any small growths, called polyps, in your large bowel, they will either remove them, or take a small sample of tissue, called a biopsy, from them, using a small surgical tool through the endoscope.

You shouldn’t feel any pain during the gastroscopy, but it can be unpleasant as it can give you a choking sensation. During the colonoscopy you may well feel some discomfort on the corners in the bowel, but usually the pain lasts a minute or so and if you have sedation this will help keep you comfortable.

What is the recovery like for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

Your recovery from having a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure will depend on multiple factors, including your age, fitness level and the nature of your procedure.

After a sedation, there are certain things you must not do for 24 hours, such as drive or make important decisions. Your medical team will give you further advice before sending you home.

Your throat may feel a little sore and you may feel a little discomfort or cramping from the air that was pumped into your bowel after the procedure. But they should only last a few hours. You may also notice a small amount of blood in your stools for a few days afterwards but this will also soon disappear.

Your medical team will discuss any immediate results with you before you go home, and will tell you when to expect the results of any biopsies taken.

Are there any risks/complications associated with a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

As with any medical procedure, it’s possible for risks or complications to arise. Speaking with your specialist beforehand will help you avoid any adverse reactions.

A gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure has a relatively low risk of serious complications, but the following risks and complications can occur in a small number of cases:

  • Damage to the oesophagus or bowel to cause a hole (perforation)
  • Bleeding

How can I prepare for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

Prior to a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure, your specialist will discuss with you how best to prepare, as each patient is different.

You will also be asked to follow a special low fibre diet in the days before your procedure as well as taking a special laxative bowel preparation. This clears the bowel, allowing your specialist a clearer view of your entire GI system. Your medical team will give you more specialised advice such as stopping other medication like iron tablets or blood thinning tablets.

Are there alternatives for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedure?

Your specialist would’ve recommended this dual procedure because they think it’s the best way to discover the cause of your symptoms or to check on the health of your bowel.

A sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but the endoscope doesn’t travel as far into the bowel. It is possible to have a CT scan of your bowel, and this can replace the need for a colonoscopy. It’s best to discuss with your specialist if you are keen on looking for alternatives.

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