How do I know if my doctor will use anesthesia?

Ask your doctor. That’s a little too obvious, and there’s a little more detail you need that that. So here’s the scoop.

Note that this applies to traditional colonoscopes, not to virtual colonoscopies.

And remember that we think you should do a virtual colonoscopy first. So at this point, you should have already had the virtual colonoscopy.

When should I ask my doctor?

Ideally, before you have a meeting with your specialist, you should ask this question.

Your initial in person consultation (sometimes called an exam) with the specialist will probably cost you and/or your insurance company between $250 and $500. (Now you understand why they want to do those “consults,” where they probably don’t even examine you but tell you a few things about how to prepare, discuss the risks, and set the appointment.)

So it’s best to ask this important question before the expensive consultation or exam.

That probably means on the phone, and it probably means you won’t talk to the doctor. The receptionist probably won’t be able to answer this question other that to say you’ll be sedated, so you should at least talk to the nurse. You can explain your concern.

If you get friction from the nurse, you could even say you won’t pay for the consult, and will order your insurance company not to pay for the consult, if you get there and the doctor says he doesn’t work with an anesthesiologist. So it’s important that they give you the correct information on the phone.

What should I ask?

You should ask, on the phone, “When you do my colonoscopy, will you use Propofol as an anesthetic?”

Then follow up with, “So that means the doctor will not use Versed, and that an anesthesiologist will be there to handle the Propofol, is that correct?”

The answer here should be:

  • Correct, no Versed will be used. Versed may also me called by its generic name, midazolam, pronounced mid-AZE-oh-lam.
  • An anesthesiologist will be there. In some states a nurse-anesthetist may be allowed to administer it. (You may be interested in a report from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.) Propofol is also known by the brand name Diprivan.

If they tell you their nurse will administer the meds, it’s probably not going to be Propofol.

In my experience, they say something like, “Of course, they administer meds so it’s okay. You won’t remember a thing.” That’s a bad response.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This information is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. It should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. Consult your healthcare professional before using any drug.

We think it’s important for you to make an informed decision.

There may be reasons you shouldn’t use Propofol, such as prior reactions or allergies. Your anesthesiologist will be able to evaluate this.

We should also point out that there may be procedures where experiencing pain will help a surgeon or doctor locate or isolate something in order to treat you properly. Versed may be entirely appropriate for these situations where the pain is necessary to the treatment, and it would be better to forget. I’m sure it can be a very useful drug where it’s appropriate.

Pain shouldn’t be necessary for a colonoscopy.

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11 thoughts on “How do I know if my doctor will use anesthesia?

  1. I woke up in the middle of my colonsocopy sobbing and crying very hard. I asked several times when it would be over and if I was done. the nurse in the room who was opposite me, held down my hadns and arms as they were moving around because of the pain. another guy in the room was holding me from behind around my stomach. My blood pressure was somewhat high when I went in because of the stress I was in. I’m sure that it went up during the painful period of the procedure. Every person I’ve talked to cannot believe what I went through. The doctor never came in afterwards to stay that things didn’t go as planned or that he was sorry that I went thorugh so much pain. He never, never mentioned anything to my husband who occompanied me there. I am submitting a complaint to my insurance carrier and I’ve also left a message with the head of the gastro department in the hospital that I was in. Do I have any other recourse and what might be the most important issues to bring up when the department head contacts me. hb

  2. First find out if you were given Versed. This medication disrupts brain processes in most people, causing amnesia. Unfortunately since this drug usually causes amnesia the Doctors have no problem subjecting their patients to excruciating agony on the premise that you “won’t remember it anyway, so who cares.” I suspect that this drug was used in your case which explains why your pain and bad reaction was never discussed… They simply felt that you wouldn’t remember it. This also would explain that even though you were screaming and writhing in pain you were subjected to being forcibly held down instead of discontinuing the process. I would make sure to mention that (if you recieved it)Versed was not explained properly and that you were certainly withdrawing your consent to the procedure at the time you began to experience discomfort. The Doctors feel that once they give you Versed, that you are impaired and can no longer withdraw consent. This CAN be construed as an assault in some cases. Complain in writing to the hospital and file written complaints with various licensing depts, nursing, hospital compliance, health and welfare etc. Make lots of noise. There are other more humane ways to deal with a colonoscopy as the owner of this site has explained in detail.

  3. I too had telephoned the doctor’s office three weeks in advance and asked who would be present at the procedure. I was told the following – the doctor, a “fellow”, an anesthesiologist and a nurse. Okay. But what transpired at the actual procedure was different – just the nurse and the “fellow”. I asked about the anesthesiologist and was told the same story as above entries – oh, it’s a sedative, you will be asleep, you will be relaxed, it’s like amnesia.

    I too woke up mid-procedure, screaming in pain. I heard the “fellow” tell the nurse to hold me down. I was trying to stay calm by watching the monitor but I keep screaming. It felt like a very long five or ten minutes and finally it was over. I woke up in the recovery room. Ok. I hurt. Getting up was much better than lying down. My abdomen hurt – when I put my pants on, I could not pull up the zipper and button them. The nurses were all very nice. This was at UCSF San Francisco (the University of California, San Francisco)

    I have spoken with several people who have told me that they receivieved the services of an anesthesiologist and are amazed to hear that other people undergoing the procedure do not, I repeat, DO NOT, receive anesthethic.

    I too plan to file a complaint with the Patient
    Relations Office. Thanks for having this website and allowing people/patients to alert others as to consequences

  4. your “doctor” doesn’t give two-shits what you feel or experience dusing a colonoscopy…..theygive the date-rape drug Versed and it is supposed to prevent you from remembering the experience………this is from a “medical professional”………how did we degenerate into a profession that abuses people so??????

  5. I have read that Propofol also blocks your memory. I’m not sure if this is because you are asleep (which would be expected) or awake and subsequently confused. I have also been told by a local endoscopy center that Versed is required to offset the nausea associated with the pain relievers (demoral?).

  6. I was very disappointed in my recent colonoscopy experience. I watched the monitor through the whole procedure and was fully awake and complaining loudly about the pain. I expected to be given Demerol and Versed and the report afterward read only Demerol. The nurses asked during the scoping if I’d had abdominal surgeries in the past and I said yes, I’d had two. You’d think they could tell I was wide awake. Nobody explained anything and the Dr doing the scope said nothing except “sorry” a couple of times. If she had made some attempt to explain where she was in the process and what she was doing, I know it wouldn’t have bothered me quite so much. I like to be a participant in my health care. I believe that the Dr realized a mistake was made as soon as I was wheeled out of the procedure room as she came to me right away to see how I was doing. I asked why it was so painful, I wanted her to know that I did not get the amnesia drug. She said, “Well, I could’ve given you more but then you wouldn’t be as alert as you are now.” She also said something about my colon having a lot of twists in it. There was no anesthesiologist, only a nurse who administered the IV meds. If there was some good reason why I couldn’t have Versed, I would have appreciated it being explained to me. Maybe my BP was too low or it conflicted with other meds I take? I’ll never know. I honestly think it was a nurse’s mistake and nothing was told to me because they didn’t think I’d remember. The Demerol did very little to sedate me and nothing for the pain. The only positive thing was that the scoping was negative, thank you God!

  7. if you need a colonoscopy, get a virtual first.then, if you unfortunately need an optical one (the regular kind)…pay for the anesthesia services (propofol etc)…or be prepared for a lifetime of regret…sorry it’s no “walk in the park”………

  8. I had such a bad experience with this “regular” or most invasive colonoscopy that I refuse to go back.
    I am amazed that even though I drank the sodium magesium, I cleaned everything out to the point I had water coming out, and then I took the pills (28 of them) to finish it off and (was on a specific liquid diet for 38 hours or so). I was told I wasnt cleaned out, and just because you got nothing coming out of ya but clear water, (and youre weak,from it) dont mean you are cleaned out (The doctor couldnt get the turn into the right colon area (but the entire left colon area looked fine). Whatever they gave me to put me in twilight sleep the affects were so bad, that Im still recovering (my vertigo) and Im only slightly weak now, but I find I cant eat anything cept soft foods now).
    At any rate, the entire medical professionals that did my colonoscopy ..are royally peeved at me because I refuse futher tests, appts, etc. AND I made no bones about it in COMPARING a regular colonoscopy to that of getting raped. Even when I had a barium done 9 years ago in NC wasnt as bad as this test.
    Im going to pay out of my pocket for a virtual colonoscopy to finish up the procedure. ITS about 3 times cheaper than a regular one, less hassle, and folks that dont force ya into doing things their way only and treat ya and speak to you like crap when you dont comply. Think the medical professionals now days need to re-examine their choice of profession. Way the treat, speak to folks, and the roughness in the way the administer tests, and their lack of understanding, and failure to listen to the person ..just shows they dont care and aint interested in anything cept the money or insurance money. (assmebly line situations going on at the hospitals, overbooking, running late, no lunch, etc).

  9. This morning I had both an endoscopy & colonoscopy (my 2nd endoscopy & my 3rd colonoscopy and the easiest ones so far). The anesthesia used this time was propofol and it put me to sleep quickly before the doctor even inserted any tube into me! When I opened my eyes the tests had been completed & I felt pretty wide awake with no nausea! Came home & ate breakfast!
    The propofol is much better than the demerol/Versed combo I had 5 years ago! Go for the propofol, for sure! I have colonoscopies every 5 years since colon cancer killed my husband 5 years ago. It’s a small price to pay, instead of dying young.

  10. I’m an advance-practice nurse who just got a colonoscopy..I made sure that the endo understood “no midazolam”…I specified this on the consent and they pushed it anyway…I had a very painful experience (even with the usual fentanyl), got very agitated, agerssive (I’m a very calm person), screamed my head off, had to be restrained, have the bruises to prove it and bit one of the nurses. Not really funny, as I have nughtmares now about this terrible drug…Had the exam redone with nothing (offered fentanyl-refused it)…now on work-comp for PTSD and the hospital is talking with my lawyer; offering a large settlement…the experience was so traumatic that I won;t be able to return to work……I’m no wuss-I spent 2 tours in Iraq, but midazolam was the worst experience of my life. Why is this awful drug still on the market? 90% love it, but 10% is a HUGE percentage of patients who are traumatized by it. HUGE…

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