Colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope or scope, to look inside the rectum and entire colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, and polyps—extra pieces of tissue that grow on the lining of the intestine. A colonoscopy is performed to help diagnose changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, & weight loss. It is also used for colorectal cancer screening. If a polyp is seen, it is removed through the scope and sent to a pathologist to review under a microscope. If colonoscopy is being performed to identify sites of bleeding, the areas of bleeding may be controlled through the colonoscope by injecting certain medications or by coagulating the bleeding vessels.
The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and complete. Your physician will give you detailed instructions regarding the dietary restrictions to be followed and the cleansing routine to be used. In general, preparation consists of either consumption of a special cleansing solution or several days of clear liquids, laxatives and enemas prior to the examination. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. If you do not, the procedure may have to be cancelled and repeated later.
Colonoscopy is usually well tolerated and rarely causes much pain. There is often a feeling of pressure, bloating, or cramping at times, during the procedure. This procedure is usually performed with sedation. An Anesthesiologist will administer medication through a vein to help you relax and better tolerate any discomfort from the procedure. You will be lying on your side or on your back while the colonoscope is advanced slowly through the large intestine. As the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn, the lining is again carefully examined. The procedure usually takes 15 to 60 minutes. In some cases, passage of the colonoscope through the entire colon to its junction with the small intestine cannot be achieved. The physician will decide if the limited examination is sufficient or if other examinations are necessary.
After colonoscopy, your physician will explain the results to you. If you have been given medications during the procedure, you will be observed until most of the effects of sedation have worn off (for 1/2 to 2 hours). You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure.
You may have some cramping or bloating because of the air introduced into the colon during the examination. This should disappear quickly with passage of flatus (gas). Generally, you should be able to eat after leaving the endoscopy area but your doctor may restrict your diet and activities, especially after polypectomy.