What Is Colonoscopy Anesthetic?

Mary McMahon

Colonoscopy anesthetic keeps a patient comfortable during a procedure to look into the lower bowl for screening, diagnostic, or treatment purposes. While patients usually do not need anesthetic for this procedure, it can increase comfort levels and may be specifically requested. The best option can depend on the case and the patient’s medical history as well as the anesthesiologist’s preferences based on experience. Patients can discuss their concerns with anesthesiologists and doctors before the procedure to make sure an anesthetic is part of the treatment plan.

General anesthesia may be used with children undergoing colonoscopies.
General anesthesia may be used with children undergoing colonoscopies.

The most common form of colonoscopy anesthetic is sedation, where patients take medications to induce what is sometimes known as a twilight state. These drugs promote relaxation and comfort, and also help patients forget what happened during the procedure. Propofol is a popular anesthetic for this use, although other drugs can be considered. They may be administered intravenously or via inhalation, depending on the sedative involved.

Most colonoscopies use just enough sedation to keep patient comfortable while a special camera is in place.
Most colonoscopies use just enough sedation to keep patient comfortable while a special camera is in place.

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General anesthesia may be considered for some special colonoscopy cases. This involves full unconsciousness with reversible anesthetic medications that keep the patient asleep throughout the procedure. It carries significantly more risks than sedation and may not be recommended unless the patient is unlikely to tolerate the procedure while conscious. Small children, for instance, might struggle or experience extreme distress, in which case this approach to colonoscopy anesthetic may be a good option.

Whether patients receive sedation or general anesthesia, it increases the risks associated with colonoscopy. They can experience allergies and other adverse reactions to the drugs in addition to a slower recovery time. Normally an outpatient procedure, colonoscopy may require hospitalization if the patient is slow to fully wake and regain normal functioning after anesthesia. These issues may be discussed with a patient who requests colonoscopy anesthetic to confirm that the patient understands them and can make an informed decision.

In preparation for colonoscopy anesthetic, the patient may need to submit blood samples for preanesthetic testing. This allows a medical provider to check for potential contraindications that would make anesthesia or the colonoscopy itself dangerous. Anesthesiologists also check patient records and review patients for signs that a particular drug might cause a bad reaction or another problem for the patient. During the procedure, a licensed anesthesiologist or technician will monitor the patient’s level of anesthesia, heart rate, and other vital signs throughout. If any complications start to develop, the medical team can quickly intervene to treat them.

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