What is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and slowly advanced until the entire colon (large intestine) has been examined.
Reasons for the Exam
Colonoscopy may be performed as a preventative screening test or to evaluate the following problems:
Personal history or family history of colon polyps or cancer
Abnormal X-rays of the colon
Iron deficiency anemia
Evaluation of inflammatory bowel disease
Different types of instruments can be passed through the colonoscope. Polyps (abnormal growths that are pre-cancerous) or cancers can be biopsied or removed, and in some instances, certain types of bleeding can be treated.
What happens during a Colonoscopy?
You will be given a special liquid diet and laxatives the day before the exam. No solid foods (Jell-O is OK, except red Jell-O) should be consumed the day before the exam and nothing after midnight. Your doctor may also wish you to discontinue aspirin or blood thinners for several days before the exam if he or she believes a biopsy might be required. To view the various preparation instructions, click here.
An IV will be started prior to the procedure and monitors will be connected so that your blood pressure and respiration can be monitored during the test. You will be lying on your left side to start the procedure although your position may be changed during the test to help advance the instrument around your colon. Medications will be given through your IV to sedate you and control any discomfort, although this procedure is generally well tolerated and rarely causes significant pain. The procedure takes 15-60 minutes to perform depending upon whether any polyps need to be removed during the procedure.
After the Exam
You will be monitored in the recovery area until most the side effects of the medications have worn off. This is usually about 30 to 60 minutes. You will experience some bloating and/or cramping after the test due to the air placed in the colon. This will be relieved over time by natural passage of air. You will be able to resume your usual diet unless your doctor tells you otherwise. You should plan to have someone drive you home following the procedure. Additionally, plan for no driving or important decision making for 24 hours following the procedure due to the effect of anesthesia.