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Amber J. Tresca

Colonoscopy Without Drugs?

By May 23, 2008

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Doctors at VA Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center in San Diego began offering the option for a colonoscopy without sedative drugs to veterans. Amazingly, one-third of patients had the procedure without the usual drugs. And most of them agreed they would do it again!

Why offer the procedure without drugs? Many of the vets were unable to travel to a facility that would perform the procedure under sedation. Others did not have anyone to take them home after the procedure (this is necessary when "twilight sleep" is used, which makes patients groggy after a colonoscopy). In addition, the Center had a shortage of nurses.

To improve upon their procedure, doctors used water instead of air to expand the bowel. This was especially helpful in cases where bowel prep was poor, which can result in an incomplete test.

I've had several colonoscopies (when I still had a colon!) and I'm not sure I could do it unsedated. Bravo to those brave souls who not only took an uncomfortable test that could save their lives, but did it sober.

Medpage Today. "Water Infusion Boosts Performance of Unsedated Colonoscopy." 22 May 2008.

May 11, 2009 at 10:19 pm
(1) GMAN says:

Colonoscopy saves lives; but for years, doctors have pushed (and some patients have insisted upon conscious sedation). Conscious sedation isn’t to make you relaxed and comfy, it’s to make you forget the procedure (induce amnesia) commonly with the drug Versed (midazolam). Unfortunately, an increasing number or patients are reporting memory or emotional difficulties after receiving Versed. Big secret: colonoscopy without drugs usually does not hurt; when my doc agreed to do mine without drugs, I was surprized..until she told me that she had hers without drugs. If your doc takes a little time and care, it’s a breeze without drugs and you can drive yourself home. It’s also interesting to watch the exam on the monitor and remember what you saw. If you want drugs, fine…if you don’t, you will have to insist on no sedation-but you will get a better, more careful and safer exam…

May 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm
(2) serialmom says:

I’ve had two colonoscopies without sedation. It’s not a painful procedure if you have a good doctor and go in with the frame of mind that it won’t be painful.
I had Midazolam/Versed for an endoscopy a few years ago, and I’ve suffered from PSTD and permanent memory loss from that evil poison. Don’t EVER let a Dr or dentist give you Versed, you’ll never be the same again….speaking from experience and a ruined life.

August 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm
(3) peggy says:

I recently had my first colonscopy at age 69, and I refused all medication, both narcotic and Versed (sedative/amnesia agent) because of past problems with both and my knowledge that I probably have a high pain tolerance.
I had an IV in place and an understanding with doc that if I was too uncomfortable, I’d let them know and they could push in some Fentanyl.
It was a breeze. I felt a sense of fullness, but not bad at all.
There were 2 episodes of OUCH pain at the nurse pushed on my belly to help guide the probe around one corner: totally time of pain (managed by humming Ode to Joy and deep breathing) was about 10-15 seconds.
I removed my own IV, walked out of the procedure room, got dressed, and walked out of the hospital about 10 minutes after the doctor was finished.
He stared at me and said, “You were right. You absolutely didn’t need any drugs!”
So I have bragging rights, and that and $2.50 will get me a latte.

August 12, 2012 at 8:45 pm
(4) ibdcrohns says:

That’s actually pretty amazing! I hope you inspire others with your story, because a colonoscopy isn’t the big deal some people make it out to be! Bravo!

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