Why is a colonoscopy painful?

  • I didn’t realize how sensitive the inner walls of my colon were until I had a colonoscopy, and I turned into the most awful patient I’d ever seen! I was sort of into preventative testing for a couple of years and this was just a routine screening colonoscopy. I knew what the inside and outside of colons look and felt like in my hands but I didn’t know just how sensitive the inside walls are as people are asleep in surgery.

    I had given IV meds and monitored upper endoscopy or colonoscopy patients and they were always comfortable and many times fell asleep. They didn’t feel pain or discomfort because of medication or because they just didn’t feel it.

    My turn was scheduled for early morning, but there had been a very long emergency colonoscopy which turned not a surgery so I had to wait an extra 6 hours, shivering in that skimpy hospital gown without water for 12 hours from the day before, then another 6 hours waiting…poor me :)…And after that terrible preop drink the night before, I had become very cold but I was waiting alone and I couldn’t figure out where the blankets were kept.

    My doctor was very apologetic when he came to escort me to the room 6 hours late…I know these things happen but I wasn’t happy about it after sitting in my gown all morning and into the afternoon. He said something about wishing he had rose petals to scatter on the floor I was walking on….hmmm..not good enough at this point..

    The IV was started in the procedure room. I asked the doctor to use the pediatric scope as it was smaller. I was given the fentanyl and versed IV by the nurse.

    As I said before, the patients I’d taken care of were very comfortable…but I was not comfortable….I had never witnessed a patient as horrible as I was! I was awful! I begged & begged for more medication, I refused to lie still and I got more than double the usual amount of meds. They finally had to tie my arms down as I was reaching back and tugging on the scope, pulling it out, pushing the doctor’s hands away…I was not still…I did not sleep…I did not chat….I remember looking at the monitor for a couple minutes…and my colon looked fine…but for me….it hurt! I’d never seen a patient behave like I had…but there was a reason why.

    I do know now that the walls of at least my colon are very sensitive….why else would our abdomens ache so badly when we have a GI flu or food poisoning or just a stomach ache…pressure can cause discomfort. Now ordinarily, a colonoscopy is a physically comfortable procedure..with IV medications.

    When I finally won the tug of war with the doctor and I had pulled it out, I realized that I didn’t even feel the effects of a strong pain medication like fentanyl…I wasn’t sleepy or dizzy….except one side of my gown was damp. Turns out my IV had been dislodged in my vein and I had stopped getting any medications…which is why it had hurt so badly..some of the IV fluid and all of the medications had infiltrated inside my arm because my IV cannula had become dislodged…this rarely happens..and it probably was my fault as I was so combative and probably pulled it out from my struggling.

    Now in normal cases with normal patients…a colonoscopy is not painful at all…with IV medications. It’s safe, easy, and usually takes less than 30 minutes. If you are going to have one, don’t worry about it…get it over with…it’s a monotonous procedure and most often everything is normal. I know there are people who choose to not have medications and don’t have any discomfort..but this isn’t me..

    IV sedation and pain relief medications can be very effective…they work very well to make you comfortable. You won’t feel anything except maybe for a second when the scope touches you when it enters. The amount of medication given is small and wears off after a few hours, and you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable after. Don’t worry about it if you are going to have one. Just make sure you speak up if you are uncomfortable ….maybe in a better way than I did..

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