Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Colonoscopy Can Be Difficult and Painful

It has taken me a while to write about having a traumatic experience with a colonoscopy.

I shared on my Facebook and Instagram that I was turning 50 and would be experiencing my first colonoscopy.

I took my husband a few years ago and all went very well. I understood the prep for the process as the worst part and the rest would be a breeze.

Sadly, this was not my experience.

Let me share that I have a very high pain threshold. I had both of my children without drugs or epidurals, and it takes a great deal of discomfort for me to complain.

Colonoscopy Prep 

The prep for the colonoscopy was horrible, and I nearly vomited up the Moviprep solution each time I had to drink it. I expected that so I was prepared that this was not going to be fun. Within an hour of drinking the solution, my frequent bathroom visits began.

It felt like self-induced stomach flu of the worst kind. I retreated under several blankets after each run to the commode. I had to drink more solution at 3:30am and continue the toilet runs up to the time of leaving for the hospital at 7:30am. Needless to say by the time I was done, my poo looked like pee, and I lost 5lbs literally overnight. This is not the recommended or safe way to lose weight, but understand it needs to happen prior to this type of procedure.

I went into the colonoscopy thinking after the toilet trauma was complete, the rest would be smooth sailing. I was ready for my short nap and waking to an all-clear report.  

The Procedure

The doctor was great and explained everything thoroughly and the nurses took really good care of me. I was covered with warm blankets, IV in place ready to move to the procedure room. Once the IV anesthesia was administered, I fell asleep quickly but what happened next was like an excerpt from a horror movie. 

Extreme pain in my stomach began and I felt myself screaming like in a dream - it hurts, it hurts, it hurts, and to stop, stop, stop. The anesthesia kept me trapped in my mind and body as I  endured unbelievable pain. It was like having a nightmare and not being able to move.

In the distance, I did hear a loud voice say “do you want us to stop” and I do remember saying “wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.”  I was thinking if they stop, I would have to do this again. There was no way that was going to happen. I don't know what I sounded like or how I moved during this process of extreme pain under IV sedation but was hoping someone would help me.

It could be more pain relief was placed in my IV, but I don't know that. What I do know is that the pain was unbearable. My colonoscopy was far from a breeze and I felt traumatized by the event.

The doctor did explain in my haze state upon check out that my colon is very compact with many bends. This was diagnosed as a tortuous colon. It caused a rigid application of the scope and caused pain similar to childbirth during the procedure. His recommendation was that I go under general anesthesia for my next colonoscopy. 


It took my body a couple of days to recover from the anesthesia. I didn't feel good physically or emotionally about what happened to me. I had to know if other people experienced extreme pain during a colonoscopy so began online research to discover I was not alone. 

What a relief that I could read forums of so many individuals sharing my same story. I think what bothers me the most is not being properly informed. I went into my colonoscopy with a positive attitude and came out with post-traumatic stress about the event.

I believe that the medical paperwork prior to the procedure should outline extreme pain with colonoscopy can be experienced. And, in this case, measures will be taken to make the patient comfortable during the procedure.

Preventative Medicine is Important  

I'm not writing this to say I am now against having a colonoscopy because I do believe in preventative medicine. I am happy to report that my colon is clear for ten years. I will be investigating different colon screening methods the next time.

I am writing this blog to inform people that extreme pain can be experienced, and it's not always a breeze for everyone. I'm in the small percentage of those who don't respond well to traditional colonoscopy methods. 

I was shocked but also relieved to discover my diagnosis of a tortuous colon. However, it was unfortunate to undergo such discomfort to find out.

I felt an obligation to inform you about my personal experience as a voice of information about health-related subjects.

Being your own healthcare advocate is important. I am hopeful the documents pre-colonoscopy will be revised to include a thorough statement of colonoscopy procedure expectations.

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  1. You had the wrong type of anesthesia. Next time you should find a physician who administers Propofol for colonoscopies. I have had it AND professionally administered it as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and this would NOT have happened.

  2. thanks for your feedback Linda. Since the procedure I received my official report and it did come back as patient tolerated procedure poorly, and I have been diagnosed with a long tortuous colon. This is a rare genetic condition that I am now aware of and can proceed with alternative avenues in the future, to include as you mentioned a better anesthesia for my body. Take good care and Stay Healthy

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your negative colonoscopy experience. I, too, had a bad experience that I was not expecting, and ended up traumatized for months. It would have helped if the doctor & staff had shown even the slightest bit of compassion, or returned my call when I just wanted an explanation. I feel betrayed and trust is gone.

  4. I also feel betrayed and lied to. I am 65 yo, and was tortured with a sigmoidoscopy some 15 years ago by a VERY CALLOUS MD. A sig. Is much less than a colonoscopy, and the attending nurse told me I should have been sedated. ......... thank you for being an advocate, nurse. I sense the MD had some big tuition bills due for kids in private college, and a squirming, tortured patient wasn't going to stop his jamming of that scope up my very twisty colon. So, whenever I have a physical, I always decline and always have a flashback to that torture. I guess that's like PTSD. And my pain tolerance is high. NEVER AGAIN!!

    1. Sorry to hear about your horrible experience and I understand how it could instill fear to not pursue further testing. It sounds like you may also have a tortuous colon which would require specialized testing procedures. I plan to put in the research and have several discussions with docors before going through this again. Take good care and Stay Healthy!

  5. I just had mine on Monday and it was the worse expierence of my life and I am still crying a few days later.
    I went in informed and a trooper as I have had my surgery so in the past. I also told them that I have a high tolerance to pain medication and that it would take a lot to knock me out. No worries they said you will be taken care of.
    I had to have a Scope and Colonoscopy and they did the scope first...okay not so was gaggy but not painful.
    They had given me 100mg of fentenly and 5 Versed and even though it was uncomfortable I remained awake and still a trooper.

    It was the colonoscopy that changed the game....they went in and I was crying and screaming for them to stop, I also know it wasn't possible but I was awake...the nurse was told to give me 50 fentynol and 2 Versed and that didn't work at all I was completely awake...doc tells her to give me Benadrryl and I said why I am not having an allergy attach....
    I was last patient of the day and I think they hurried me....I was shelled out wide awake and after 10 minutes the doctor came out and spoke to me.
    I too have a tortours bowel and he said it was extremely difficult with all the loops...well he didn't have to tell me I felt it someone with a metal prod ripping at my insides.
    I was given a juice and then as fast as I was out I was asked if I was ready to go...what should I say so I said is my family waiting for me...they told me they were in the waiting room...they were not there...
    I am now suffering spurts of crying that I can't understand...I am crying as I write this. I feel like it's post tramatic stress and I have taken the week off work...I tried to go to work two days later and broken down bawling so my boss drove me home...I feel alone but reading your experience has helped me a bit

    1. Sorry to hear about your colonoscopy experience. I do understand what you are going through. You're not alone. Reading forums was helpful for me to get through the PTSD from the event. I recommend diving into those and sharing your experience as you've done here. When you are in a position of no control of what's happening it feels scary and dreamlike. It may also be helpful to speak to your physician or seek professional counseling. Coming to terms with having a tortuous colon also provided relief. I will be able to be in control of future procedure protocols. Take one day at a time and glad you have taken time off. Again, you're not alone and feel supported in that you will be OK. Be well and Stay Healthy ~ Darla

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Darla and everyone else. I just had a very similar experience this week. I was semi-sedated, but came out of the procedure in extreme pain. My stomach and insides have hurt for days. I called the endoscopy office three times before they admitted that I had a curved colon and small abdomen and that it was very hard to navigate and that my body was manipulated. I was on versed and still feel like I know what happened, but can't articulate it. I've been crying, depressed, angry, and feeling violated since. I am taking Xanax for the first time in my life and seeing a therapist next week. Wishing all of us mental and physical healing.

    1. Hi BB and sorry to hear about your experience. I am glad you are seeing a therapist and hope this brings about the healing you need. My suggestion is that you speak with your physician about other preventative options/screening in the future. Take good care and Stay Healthy!

  7. My experience was almost exactly like yours. I went into the OR thinking the same thing, nice nap wake up all good. I had an EGD and colonoscopy, first the IV went into my vein and the Dr. Looked at me and aaid you are still awake I’m like yeah(nodding) as the mouth guard was in. I guess they hit me with more meds and proceeded the EGD I was gagging and almost thought I was going to vomit.., finally done and they moved onto colonoscopy. I started screaming in pain as they moved up to the left side of my colon. The RN was pushing on my stomach as hard as they do to get your placenta out, any mom will know how that feels. They did ask if they should continue and like you I said yes I wanted to know why I had diarrhea for two months. After the procedure obviously I went to recovery but I didn’t need it as I was awake the entire time. Diagnosed with a tortuous colon the dr. said they were quite aggressive in getting the scope around one turn. Fast forward I was extremely bloated the same afternoon and for almost 6 days post. I did go to the hospital the next two days, to be told my colon was not happy with what went on and I probably had gas. I took Ovol for almost a week and no real expelling of gas. I believe I was swollen due to my colon being aggravated so much. I missed a week of work and still cannot wrap my head around missing an entire week for a simple procedure! I too was disappointed that I wasn’t made aware that I could have such severe pain and bloating after the procedure. I realize every patient is different but still it IS a possibility. Thank you for sharing your story. At least I know I wasn’t going crazy and I wasn’t the only one.

    1. So sorry to read about your experience and glad I could offer my story to help you and others that don't have a positive experience with colonoscopy. At the very least, a tortuous colon diagnosis has been made and helpful for future treatment. Be well and Stay Healthy.


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