What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy.jpgA colonoscopy is an examination performed to evaluate abnormalities or changes in the colon and rectum utilizing a long, flexible tube known as a colonoscope. This exam may be necessary if you are experiencing rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea or constipation, and other intestinal problems. A colonoscopy is also performed to detect colon cancer. If needed, polyps or other abnormal tissue can be removed.

What is the difference between a screening, surveillance and diagnostic colonoscopy?

A screening colonoscopy is performed once every 10 years for patients with no symptoms or problems over the age of 50 and has had no history of colon cancer, polyp, rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits and/or any gastrointestinal disease.

Surveillance colonoscopy: The patient is repeating their colonoscopy and has no symptoms or problems at the time of the procedure but may have a personal history of gastrointestinal disease, previous colon polyps from last colonoscopy, and/or cancer. Patients in this category typically are required to undergo colonoscopy every 2 – 5 years.

Diagnostic colonoscopy: The patient has past/or present gastrointestinal symptom(s), polyps, or gastrointestinal disease, and we are performing a colonoscopy to diagnosis or find the source of the problem.

How do I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Prior to the exam, your colon must be completely empty. Please follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to ensure accurate diagnosis. Typically, the day before the exam, you will have to follow a special diet consisting of clear liquids. Furthermore, you may not be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. Your doctor may also recommend you take a laxative the night before. Before the colonoscopy, please inform your doctor of any major illnesses or allergies you have, as well as the medications you take.

What will occur during the test?

Initially, you’ll be given a sedative (intravenously) to help you relax. You’ll begin the exam lying on your side; typically with your knees drawn toward your chest. Your doctor will insert the colonoscope (a long, flexible tube) into your rectum. The colonoscope features a fiber-optic light and a channel through which your doctor will pump air into the colon to get a better view. There is also a tiny camera on the tip of the scope. The camera transmits images to a computer monitor; enabling your doctor to analyze the inside of your colon. If necessary, your doctor can insert instruments into the channel to obtain biopsies, or remove polyps and other irregular tissue. Generally, a colonoscopy is completed within 20 minutes to an hour.

What happens after the exam?

Following the exam, you will be monitored in a recovery area for less than 30 minutes. Because it typically takes a day for the effects of the sedative to wear off, please make arrangements to have someone drive you home. You’ll need to rest the remainder of the day. You may experience bloating or cramping, and mild abdominal pain. In addition, you may pass a small amount of blood during your first bowel movement after the exam. This is generally not a cause for concern. However, if this continues to happen or if you experience chronic abdominal pain or a high fever, please call our office.

Will I experience any complications?

When performed by one of our board certified gastroenterologists, a colonoscopy is generally safe; complications are uncommon.

You may notice a tender lump at the IV site, which may last for several weeks. Applying hot towels to the area may alleviate discomfort.

In addition, if a biopsy is taken or a polyp is removed, there is a small chance that bleeding could occur. As a result, a transfusion may be required. We strongly recommend you avoid taking aspirin, pills to treat arthritis pain (excluding Tylenol or acetaminophen), or any other blood thinners for a while, following a biopsy or polyp removal. Your doctor will inform you when it is okay to begin taking these types of medications again.

In rare instances, a tear in the wall of the colon could necessitate hospitalization or an emergency surgical procedure.

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