A Colonoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that enables the examiner (usually a gastroenterologist) to check for changes or abnormalities in the large. The doctor will use a colonoscope, which is a four-foot long, flexible tube with a camera and a light at one end. The procedure usually take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
Why is a Colonoscopy done?
A Colonoscopy is a standard procedure that may be performed to diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal conditions.
Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy to diagnose:
- Colon Cancer
- Abdominal Pain
- Blood in the Stool
- Unexplained Anemia
Individuals with a family history of certain types of non-colonic cancer or problems associated with colon cancer may be advised to have regular colonoscopies because they are at greater risk of developing colon cancer.
However, it is recommended that even healthy individuals should undergo a colonoscopy at age 50 and every ten years thereafter.
How do you prepare for a Colonoscopy?
In order for the procedure to be complete and thorough, your colon must be completely clean. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.
These usually include limiting solid foods or going on a liquid diet for a few days before the procedure, you may also need to take laxatives or undergo an enema before the exam because your small intestine and rectum must be empty and clean for your doctor to see the walls of your intestine.
What to expect during your Colonoscopy?
You should arrive 1 to 2 hours before your colonoscopy and are accompanied by an adult or arrange to have someone take you home.
The procedure is done as follows:
- You will be put on an intravenous line to administer fluids and sedatives.
- Your doctor will perform a digital rectal exam, placing a gloved, lubricated finger inside your rectum.
- The colonoscope will be inserted into your rectum, advancing it up the colon to the cecum. A video camera on the colonoscope transmits images to a nearby monitor.
- Your colon will be inflated with air to improve visibility.
- If an infection is suspected, a biopsy may be obtained, and should there be polyps they can usually be removed through the colonoscope. These additional procedures typically do no produce pain.
- Treat any bleeding in the colon.
What happens after a Colonoscopy?
After the colonoscopy is finished, you will be kept in a recovery room until medications adequately wear off. If you received sedatives for the procedure your judgment will be impaired the rest of the day, so you should have someone to accompany you home.
You may experience some cramping or gas that usually passes quickly. You may return to your normal diet, unless you had polyps removed or other procedures.
Though complications are rare in colonoscopy, bleeding and puncture of the colon are possible. Be sure to call your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Excessive or prolonged rectal bleeding
- Severe abdominal pain, fever or chills