What is a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure which allows our doctors to view the lining of your colon (large intestine). A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope, which has its own lens and light source, is inserted into the anus and slowly advanced from the rectum to the cecum (the anatomic beginning of the colon). Polyps, colon cancer and any inflammation can be found during a colonoscopy. Biopsies can be obtained and most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy.
What preparation is required?
Preparation for your colonoscopy involves ingesting a clear liquid diet for 24-hours prior to your procedure. In addition, a laxative preparation is taken the night before and then again, approximately 4 hours, prior to the procedure. Research has shown that “split dosing” leads to a better visualization of the colon. The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and complete, so it is important to follow the instructions carefully.
Can I take my current medications?
Most medications can be continued as usual, but some medications may interfere with the preparation of your procedure or examination. Please inform us about any medications you’re taking, particularly aspirin products, arthritis medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners), insulin or iron products.
Please alert us if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, because you may need antibiotics before a colonoscopy as well.
What happens during my colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is well-tolerated and pain-free. You will be given a sedative by our anesthesiologist, who will be present to monitor your vital signs during the examination
You will lie on your side or back during the procedure. The procedure itself usually lasts approximately 20 minutes, although you should plan on one to two hours for waiting, preparation and recovery.
In some cases, the colonoscopy may not be completed due to a variation in the person’s colon anatomy and concern for a higher risk of a perforation. In this case, we may recommend a CT colonography (“virtual colonoscopy”) or a barium enema to visualize the portions of the colon which were not visualized during the colonoscopy.
What if the colonoscopy shows something abnormal?
If an area needs further evaluation, a biopsy may be obtained. If polyps are found during your colonoscopy procedure, our doctors will have them removed during the examination.
What are polyps and why are they removed?
Polyps are abnormal growths found in the colon lining that are usually benign. They vary in size from a tiny dot to several inches. Because cancer begins in polyps, removing them is an important means of preventing colorectal cancer.
How are polyps removed?
Tiny polyps can be removed by fulguration or by removing them with wire loops called snares or with biopsy instruments. A technique called “snare polypectomy” is used to remove larger polyps. This technique involves passing a wire loop through the colonoscope and removing the polyp from the intestinal wall with an electrical current.
What happens after a colonoscopy?
The results of the examination will be discussed with you after the procedure. If a biopsy was taken or a polyp was removed, the material is sent to a pathology lab and the results are available in approximately 5 business days.
You will not be allowed to drive for 12 hours after your colonoscopy and you will need to arrange for someone to escort you home. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, your judgment and reflexes could be impaired for the rest of the day. You may have some cramping or bloating because of air that is introduced into the colon during the examination. This should disappear quickly when you pass gas.
What are the possible complications of colonoscopy?
Complications are uncommon but may include a perforation, or tear, through the bowel wall that could require surgery. If bleeding occurs at the site of biopsy or polypectomy, it’s usually minor. Bleeding can stop on its own or be controlled through the colonoscope; it rarely requires follow-up treatment. Some patients might have a reaction to the sedative agent.
Although complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it’s important to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you notice severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup, contact us immediately. Note that bleeding can occur several days after the procedure.