How soon can I drive after a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam that views the inside of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using a tool called a colonoscope.
The colonoscope has a small camera attached to a flexible tube that can reach the length of the colon.
When you Were in the Hospital or Clinic
This is what the procedure involved:
- You were likely given medicine into a vein (IV) to help you relax. You should not feel any pain.
- The colonoscope was gently inserted through the anus and was carefully moved into the large intestine.
- Air was inserted through the scope to provide a better view.
- Tissue samples (biopsy or polyps) may have been removed using tiny tools inserted through the scope. Photos may have been taken using the camera at the end of the scope.
Right After the Test
You will be taken to an area to recover right after the test. You may wake up there and not remember how you got there.
The nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse. Your IV will be removed.
Your doctor will likely come to talk to you and explain the results of the test.
- Ask to have this information written down, as you may not remember what you were told later on.
- Final results for any tissue biopsies that were done may take up to 1 to 3 weeks.
Medicines you were given can change the way you think and make it harder to remember for the rest of the day.
As a result, it is NOT safe for you to drive a car or find your own way home.
You will not be allowed to leave alone. You will need a friend or family member to take you home.
Eating and Drinking
You will be asked to wait 30 minutes or more before drinking. Try small sips of water first. When you can do this easily, you should begin with small amounts of solid foods.
You may feel a little bloated from air pumped into your colon, and burp or pass gas more often over the day.
If gas and bloating bother you, here are some things you can do:
- Use a heating pad
- Walk around
- Lie on your left side
The Rest of the day
Do not plan to return to work for the rest of the day. It is not safe to drive or handle tools or equipment.
You should also avoid making important work or legal decisions for the rest of the day, even if you believe your thinking is clear.
Keep an eye on the site where the IV fluids and medicines were given. Watch for any redness or swelling.
Ask your doctor which medicines or blood thinners you should start taking again and when to take them.
If you had a polyp removed, your provider may ask you to avoid lifting and other activities for up to 1 week.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have:
- Black, tarry stools
- Red blood in your stool
- Vomiting that will not stop or vomiting blood
- Severe pain or cramps in your belly
- Chest pain
- Blood in your stool for more than 2 bowel movements
- Chills or fever over 101°F (38.3°C)
- No bowel movement for more than 3 to 4 days
Brewington JP, Pope JB. Colonoscopy. In: Fowler GC, ed. Pfenninger and Fowler’s Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 90.
Chu E. Neoplasms of the small and large intestine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 184.
Last reviewed on: 7/1/2021
Reviewed by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
What happens on the day — Colonoscopy
On the day of your colonoscopy you’ll need to stop eating and drinking. Your letter will tell you when to stop.
You should also bring any medicines you take with you.
When you arrive
You’ll speak with a nurse about what’s going to happen. They will ask you to change into a hospital gown.
You may be offered things to make you more comfortable and make the test easier, such as:
- sedation – medicine given through a small tube in your arm to help you relax
- gas and air – you breathe this in to help you relax
Not all hospitals offer all these things – ask about what you can have.
You cannot drive for 24 hours if you have sedation. Someone will need to pick you up from hospital in a car or taxi.
A nurse or specialist will explain possible risks.
In rare cases, people may:
- have a reaction to the sedation
- have heavy bleeding afterwards
- get a small tear in their bowels
You’ll be asked to sign a consent form. This is to confirm you understand the risks and agree to have the procedure.
It’s important to remember these things are rare. If anything happens, the team will take care of you.
The colonoscopy procedure
It should take 30 to 45 minutes to have your colonoscopy.
But you might be at the hospital for around 2 hours from getting there to going home.
|What happens||What it might feel like|
|A thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside goes into your bottom||You may feel the camera go in, but it should not hurt|
|Air is pumped in to open up your bowels||You may feel a bit bloated or like you need the toilet|
|The tube goes through all of your large bowel||You may have some stomach cramps|
|Any growths (polyps) in your bowels will be removed or a sample of cells taken||You will not feel anything if this happens|
After your colonoscopy is finished you’ll usually be told if any growths (polyps) have been removed.
You’ll then be moved to the recovery room. The nurses will monitor you until you’re ready go home.
Video: What happens during a colonoscopy?
In this video, a nurse explains what happens during a colonoscopy.
Media last reviewed: 3 October 2022
Media review due: 3 October 2025
How you might feel after a colonoscopy
You might feel bloated or have stomach cramps for 2 to 3 hours after a colonoscopy.
You may also have some blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom for a couple of days. These things are common.
Urgent advice: Call 111 or the hospital where you had a colonoscopy if:
You have any of these things after having a colonoscopy:
- heavy bleeding from your bottom or bleeding that’s getting worse
- severe stomach pain or pain that gets worse
- a high temperature or you feel hot or shivery
- always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
- you cannot sleep
- it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
- always there
- makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
- you can manage to get up, wash or dress
- comes and goes
- is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities
Page last reviewed: 14 November 2022
Next review due: 14 November 2025
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Conscious sedation for surgical procedures
Conscious sedation is a combination of medicines to help you relax (a sedative) and to block pain (an anesthetic) during a medical or dental procedure. You will probably stay awake, but may not be able to speak.
Conscious sedation lets you recover quickly and return to your everyday activities soon after your procedure.
A nurse, doctor, or dentist, will give you conscious sedation in the hospital or outpatient clinic. Most of the time, it will not be an anesthesiologist. The medicine will wear off quickly, so it is used for short, uncomplicated procedures.
You may receive the medicine through an intravenous line (IV, in a vein) or a shot into a muscle. You will begin to feel drowsy and relaxed very quickly. If your doctor gives you the medicine to swallow, you will feel the effects after about 30 to 60 minutes.
Your breathing will slow and your blood pressure may drop a little. Your health care provider will monitor you during the procedure to make sure you are OK. This provider will stay with you at all times during the procedure.
You should not need help with your breathing. But you may receive extra oxygen through a mask or IV fluids through a catheter (tube) into a vein.
You may fall asleep, but you will wake up easily to respond to people in the room. You may be able to respond to verbal cues. After conscious sedation, you may feel drowsy and not remember much about your procedure.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Conscious sedation is safe and effective for people who need minor surgery or a procedure to diagnose a condition.
Some of the tests and procedures that conscious sedation may be used for are:
- Breast biopsy
- Dental prosthetic or reconstructive surgery
- Minor bone fracture repair
- Minor foot surgery
- Minor skin surgery
- Plastic or reconstructive surgery
- Procedures to diagnose and treat some stomach (upper endoscopy), colon (colonoscopy), lung (bronchoscopy), and bladder (cystoscopy) conditions
Conscious sedation is usually safe. However, if you are given too much of the medicine, problems with your breathing may occur. A provider will be watching you during the whole procedure.
Providers always have special equipment to help you with your breathing, if needed. Only certain qualified health professionals can provide conscious sedation.
Before the Procedure
Tell the provider:
- If you are or could be pregnant
- What medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription
During the days before your procedure:
- Tell your provider about allergies or health conditions you have, what medicines you are taking, and what anesthesia or sedation you have had before.
- You may have blood or urine tests and a physical exam.
- Arrange for a responsible adult to drive you to and from the hospital or clinic for the procedure.
- If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking increases the risk for problems such as slow healing. Ask your provider for help quitting.
On the day of your procedure:
- Follow instructions about when to stop eating and drinking.
- Do not drink alcohol the night before and the day of your procedure.
- Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Arrive at the hospital or clinic on time.
After the Procedure
After conscious sedation, you will feel sleepy and may have a headache or feel sick to your stomach. During recovery, your finger will be clipped to a special device (pulse oximeter) to check the oxygen levels in your blood. Your blood pressure will be checked with an arm cuff about every 15 minutes.
You should be able to go home 1 to 2 hours after your procedure.
When you are home:
- Follow your provider’s instructions about when and what to eat and drink.
- You should be able to return to your everyday activities the next day.
- Avoid driving, operating machinery, drinking alcohol, and making legal decisions for at least 24 hours.
- Check with your doctor before taking any medicines or herbal supplements.
- If you had surgery, follow your doctor’s instructions for recovery and wound care.
Conscious sedation is generally safe, and is an option for procedures or diagnostic tests.