Frequently asked questions

1. What is a biopsy and how to I get the report?
A biopsy is a sample of tissue taken during a procedure. Biopsies are often taken of ulcers, tumors, polyps, and abnormal tissue in order to examine the samples with a microscope. The reports are usually available in 10-14 days. After your procedure, we will provide instructions for obtaining the report.

2. It is very difficult to drink the full dose of the preparation. Should I drink all the solution even if I feel nauseous?
It is common to feel nausea during the preparation for colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. You may try to add some fruit juice, crystal lite, or ice to improve the flavor. If you vomit, rest for 30 minutes and try to resume drinking the preparation. The goal of the preparation is to clean out your bowels completely. If you do not have clear stools during the preparation, your doctor will find it difficult to complete the exam.

3. What is an ERCP?
ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography) is a term for a procedure in which the bile and pancreatic ducts are examined with an endoscope. X-ray dye is injected into the ducts and x-ray pictures are taken. If there is a blockage, a stent will be placed to unblock the duct.

4. Will I see my physician after the procedure?
Since you will be receiving sedatives for your procedures, you may not remember much of the test or the discussions afterwards. Many physicians ask that the patients be informed of the results of the procedure with a written statement. This will help you remember what was found during the procedure. All reports are sent to the referring physician(s) after the procedure.

5. Why do I need to arrive at the GI Endoscopy unit 45 minutes before my test?
In order for you to be properly prepared for your test, we need to have you change into a gown and have an intravenous placed. Some paperwork will also need to be completed. If you come late to the unit, this will not only delay you but other patients.

6. How long will the procedure take?
The length of the procedure depends on the type of procedure that you will have and the care that is required during the procedure. The length of routine procedures are:

  • Colonoscopy - 30 minutes
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - 15 minutes
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound - 1.5 hours
  • ERCP 1.5 hours
  • Liver Biopsy - 15 minutes

Please remember that procedure times can vary based on the needs of each individual.

7. I am taking one or more of the medications mentioned on the preparation forms (Coumadin, insulin, aspirin). Should I follow the recommended medication schedule on the sheet that explains the preparation form or should I call my primary care physician?
The medication plan listed on the prep form is only a recommendation. Notify your primary care physician or the health care professional responsible for your care to receive specific instructions.

8. What is conscious sedation? Will I be going to sleep?
It is combination of sedatives and narcotics. Our goal is not for you to go to sleep but for you to feel comfortable during the exam. You will feel the effects of the medications for a couple hours after the procedure. Therefore, you can not drive for 12 hours after the procedure.

9. Why do I need an escort?
You will need an escort after the procedure because it is not safe to travel alone or drive after receiving conscious sedation. This rule is strictly enforced to ensure the safety of our patients. If your escort does not accompany you to the procedure, you must provide his/her name and phone number so we can verify that he/she will accompany you from the unit and provide transportation. Your procedure will be cancelled and rescheduled if we can not confirm that you have an escort prior to the procedure.

10. I have a question about my preparation and my medications. How do I contact the GI Endoscopy Unit for questions?
The nursing service has set-up a patient voice mail system in the Endoscopy Unit. You may call this number (617-726-0388) any time and leave your call-back number. The GI Endoscopy nurses will make every effort to answer your questions with a prompt call-back.

11. What are the common complications that arise from colonoscopy or endoscopy?
The common complication from these procedures is related to conscious sedation. Many patients feel sleepy and tired after the procedures. After colonoscopy, bloating and cramps is common. The more serious complications include bleeding or perforation. Bleeding may occur after a polyp is removed. With significant bleeding, you will see fresh, red blood in your stool. A perforation of your bowel will cause severe abdominal pain and fever. For these serious complications, it is important for you to be evaluated quickly in the MGH emergency department or a one closer to you.

12. What is an EUS?
EUS or endoscopic ultrasound is an endoscopic exam using an endoscope with an ultrasound probe on the tip of the scope. This type of exam is often performed to evaluate patients with abnormalities in the pancreas and tumors in the esophagus and stomach.