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Find Out How Long Does a Colonoscopy Take & Reasons to Get One

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a physician to examine the inside of the large intestine (colon) using a tool called a colonoscopy. It is commonly used to screen for colon cancer or investigate the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms. If you are going to get a colonoscopy, you might be wondering about the whole procedure. In this write-up, we will discuss how long does a colonoscopy take and reasons to get it. 

How Long Does A Colonoscopy Take?

  1. The Preparation

Before diving into how long does a colonoscopy take, you must be aware of the preparation period. The preparation for a colonoscopy usually starts 1-2 days before the procedure itself. Your doctor will instruct you on what dietary changes to make and which cleansing preparation to use. This prep flushes out stool from the bowel using strong laxatives mixed with large amounts of fluids. 

You can expect to spend the day prior to your colonoscopy near a toilet, as the prep causes significant bowel evacuation. The preparation process takes most of the day as you work to consume all the prescribed fluids and medications. This allows the bowels to be completely clean for the procedure.

  1. Checking In

Patients are generally asked to arrive an hour or two early on the day of the colonoscopy. This gives the medical staff time to get you checked in, change into a hospital gown, start an IV line, and take care of any preliminary tests. Starting the intake process early ensures things move smoothly and efficiently.

  1. The Pre-Procedure Wait 

Once you’ve finished all the initial check-in activities, you’ll wait in a pre-op area until it’s time for the colonoscopy. This involves resting, having vital signs monitored, and potentially receiving some initial medication through the IV. The waiting period gives sedative drugs time to kick in so you are relaxed for the start of the procedure.

  1. The Colonoscopy 

So, how long does a colonoscopy take? The average colonoscopy takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes, though complex cases may take longer. Patients are typically given both pain medication and a sedative through the IV line before the colonoscope is inserted. This keeps people comfortable and relaxed during the examination.

The doctor will slowly insert the lubricated scope through the rectum into the large intestine, pumping air into the bowel as needed to better visualise the lining. The scope’s camera transmits images to a monitor so the doctor can carefully inspect the intestinal walls. Removal of polyps or tissue samples may lengthen the procedure time.

  1. Recovery Period

After the colonoscopy is complete, patients move to a recovery area where they are monitored for a period of time, typically 1-2 hours. This allows the sedation medications to completely wear off. IV fluids also help relieve any bloating or cramping from the air pumped into the intestines. Vital signs are checked regularly during the recovery period.

  1. Discharge Appointment  

Prior to discharge, the physician will discuss the results of the colonoscopy. They will inform you if they removed any polyps or took any biopsy samples and make a plan for follow-up. The medical team will also go over any preparation needed for passing the remaining air and when you can resume your normal diet.

Reasons To Get Colonoscopy 

Now that you know how long does a colonoscopy take, let’s have a look at the reasons you need to get one.

  1. Screen For Colon Cancer

The number one reason to get a colonoscopy is to screen for colon cancer. The second most common cause of cancer-related fatalities in both men and women is colorectal cancer. Colonoscopies allow doctors to look directly at the entire colon and rectum for any polyps or cancerous growths. 

  1. Follow Up On Suspicious Symptoms

A colonoscopy is often ordered if you have signs or symptoms that may indicate colorectal cancer or other gastrointestinal issues. Common symptoms that warrant a colonoscopy include rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea or constipation, narrow stool, abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss. 

  1. Detect Ulcerative Colitis And Crohn’s Disease

Colonoscopies along with biopsies are useful for detecting and monitoring inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. They allow visualization of areas of inflammation and help doctors assess the severity of IBD to determine proper treatment.

  1. Family History Of Colon Cancer

If you have a first-degree family member (parent, sibling, or child) who has had colon cancer or advanced polyps, you are at higher risk yourself and need colonoscopy screening starting as early as age 40, or 10 years before the youngest diagnosis in your family.  

  1. Previous Polyps Or Cancer Found

If you’ve had polyps or colorectal cancer detected on a prior colonoscopy, you will require more frequent screenings such as every 2 to 5 years to monitor for growths. Maintaining surveillance is key for preventing recurrence.


This shall clear your doubts on how long does a colonoscopy take. Getting a colonoscopy is one of the most effective preventative measures you can take for your health. Knowing the whole procedure allows you to prepare accordingly. If you are over 45 years old, you should not delay the screening. 

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