A colonoscopy is a 30-60 minute medical procedure designed to examine your large intestine (colon). In many cases, this procedure allows for accurate diagnosis and treatment of many colon abnormalities.
Your colon is about a 5 foot long and hollow tube that stores unabsorbed food waste and absorbs water and other fluid before stool elimination. It starts where your small intestine ends and ends at your rectum.
A long, flexible, lighted scope is carefully inserted through your rectum and up into your colon. This scope transmits images to a video screen for examination of your colon lining. This colonoscopy procedure can see things like:
It can also help discover reasons for bowel habit changes or evaluate symptoms such as:
- weight loss
- rectal bleeding
- abdominal pain
Preparation for your colonoscopy requires that your colon to be empty. Therefore you will need to follow a liquid diet for 1-3 days before the procedure. You will be instructed to follow a diet that may only include:
- plain tea
- diet soda
- plain coffee
- strained fruit juice
- fat-free bouillon or broth
The medical staff performing your colonoscopy will need to know about any medical conditions you have or medications you take on a regular basis, such as:
Prior to your colonoscopy procedure you will be given a moderate sedative for comfort and relaxation, so be sure to arrange for a ride home. As a result of sedation, most don’t even remember it.
Beyond visual inspection, a colonoscopy procedure can remove abnormal growths, like colorectal polyps, which are afterwards tested for cancer. Also, tissue samples can be taken for colon disease testing.
Pain usually is not felt during any tissue removal or treatments to stop any bleeding as a result, but you may feel mild cramping.
Rarely, some experience after:
Full recovery by the next day is typical and your ability to return to regular activities can be expected.
Rare and uncommon risks of a colonoscopy are:
- colon punctures
In contrast, a virtual colonoscopy uses x rays and computers to produce dimensional images of your colon. This procedure is more comfortable and no sedation is necessary. Therefore, you can return to your usual activities or go home right afterwards.
The disadvantages of a virtual colonoscopy is that polyp removal or tissue samples cannot be taken, so a conventional colonoscopy will be performed if abnormalities are found. Also, it shows less detail, so small polyps may not show up.