Colonoscopy in Singapore: All you need to know

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure to visually image the lining of your colon in order to examine it for any irregularities. Colonoscopies are usually carried out by general surgeons or Gastroenterologists. A long and soft tube with a camera & light known as a Colonoscope is carefully inserted via the anus, carrying a live image to a screen which allows the doctor to examine the colon, all the way to the exit of the small intestine.

When should I get a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a safe and effective method in determining the cause for certain digestive irregularities and it is also useful in the management of several digestive conditions and diseases.

If you have these digestive symptoms, consider going for a colonoscopy:

  • Abnormal shift in bowel movements
  • Abrupt or unexplained loss of weight
  • Blood in your stool
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Persistent constipation
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bloating

If you are suffering from an ongoing bowel-related disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, a colonoscopy might be needed in order to examine and help manage the disease.

A colonoscopy is the best way to detect signs of colon cancer, and thus patients above the age of 50 should go for a routine colonoscopy every 10 years. Patients who might be genetically predisposed towards colon cancer or have a history of colonic polyps might need to go for more regular colonoscopy check-ups. Colonic polyps will need to be removed through a process known as polypectomy.

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Before your colonoscopy, you will be required to fast for at least 6 hours. You will be allowed to drink water up to 2 hours before the procedure, but certain liquids that have lactose such as milk are not allowed.

You will need to follow a process known as bowel preparation. You will be given a laxative the day prior so that your colon will be cleaned out and all solid waste has been passed out beforehand. It is important that you follow the bowel preparation procedure correctly or the colonoscopy might be unsuccessful and you will need to repeat the process all over again.

How is a colonoscopy performed?

You will be hooked up to an IV drip, where the sedation will be administered. Depending on your bill of health and cardiovascular condition, either moderate sedation or full general anaesthesia will be administered. Prior to sedation, you will need to lie on your left side and your legs will have to be curled up close to your chest. Once you are properly sedated, the doctor will proceed with the procedure. During the procedure, the anaesthesiologist will monitor your breathing and blood pressure to ensure that they remain stable and safe.

Your colon will be slightly inflated with air in order to ensure the colon is straight and there is space for the doctor to manoeuvre the colonoscope. The doctor will need to skilfully navigate the colonoscope throughout the bends and twists of the colon. 

An entire colonoscopy takes around 30 minutes to an hour in order to complete fully. 

Once the colonoscopy is complete, you will awake from your sedation gradually. You will have to recover in the hospital for a period of time, upon which you will be given food and drink. A family member should be present to take you home. You should not resume driving or working until at least the next day.

Are there risks associated with getting a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is generally regarded as a safe procedure. It is quite normal for the patient to experience some discomfort around their colon due to the air that was used to inflate it. This will generally subside within 24 hours. 

It is advised that patients arrange for a family member to escort them home as the sedative will take several hours to wear off. Usually, it is only advised for the patient to leave the hospital only after a few hours of rest. Patients should also not work or drive until at least 24 hours after the surgery. 

If a polypectomy or biopsy is performed alongside the colonoscopy, there might be some pain and bleeding in the rectal region for a few days post-procedure. If this bleeding is severe and persists past several days, then there is a chance that the wall of the colon was damaged during the procedure. In this case, contact your specialist immediately to get checked up.

How much does a colonoscopy procedure cost in Singapore?

This will vary greatly depending on the hospital you opt to have the surgery performed. As colonoscopy is not an elective surgery, usually most of the surgery will be covered by insurance or Medisave. It is advised that you consult with your health insurance company to find the best financial arrangement prior to going for the surgery. Many clinics also provide financial counselling in such cases, so don’t be afraid to ask.