Colonoscopy

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure performed to carefully examine the lining of the colon. Using a long, thin and flexible tube, called a colonoscope, we are able to carefully insert the tube through the rectum into the large intestine to detect any abnormalities of the large intestine. A colonoscopy is often used to confirm suspected abnormalities that were detected by an X-ray or to perform biopsies of a suspicious area.

What is a polypectomy?

If a polyp is found during the procedure, your physician might find it necessary for it to be removed. While the colonoscope is inserted into the large intestine, we will pass a wire loop or snare through the tube that will remove the polyp from the intestinal wall. Generally, no pain is associated with this procedure.

Polyps are removed because of their potential for causing rectal bleeding and/or cancer.

Why is a colonoscopy necessary?

A colonoscopy is invaluable in that it is an excellent tool for diagnosing and treating a number of conditions and diseases of the large intestine. This technology allows us to confirm abnormalities suspected by X-ray as well as provide helpful information for the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The greatest contribution of the colonoscopy has been how it provides a less-invasive method for physicians to remove polyps. Prior to colonoscopies, major abdominal surgery was required to remove such polyps only to determine if they were benign or malignant. Now, these polyps can be removed and studied without the need of surgery.

What do I need to do to prepare for this procedure?

For the best possible examination, we ask that only clear liquids be consumed one to two days prior to the procedure. Do not take any aspirin or iron products one week prior to the exam. Laxatives and enemas are to be taken prior to the colonoscopy. Please read our Clear Liquid Diet instructions.

Please inform your physician about any medications you are allergic to and are currently taking.

The patient must be accompanied by an adult who can drive you home because the medication will make you drowsy.

Each of our doctors has different preparation guidelines. Please read your doctor’s instructions here:

What can I expect during the procedure?

You will be given an intravenous medication to help you relax and feel sleepy. Once you are in a comfortable position, we will examine your colon using a colonoscope that is inserted into the rectum and steadily moved through the colon. As the colonoscope is carefully removed, we will reexamine the lining of the colon.

Although patients might experience discomfort during the procedure, it is usually very mild. Some patients even fall asleep during the exam.

What can I expect following the procedure?

You will be kept in the recovery area until the medication has worn off. You might experience light cramping for a little while following the procedure due to the air that was pushed through the colon.

Patients may resume their normal diet after the procedure unless otherwise instructed by their physicians. If a polyp was removed, we might recommend a limited diet before returning to your normal diet.

Are there any risks involved with a colonoscopy and polypectomy?

Colonoscopies and polypectomies are both safe and effective procedures that generally have very low risks associated with them if they are performed by a skilled and experienced specialist. These few risks include:

  • Tearing of the wall of the colon causing intestinal fluids to leak. This complication requires surgery but can be managed with antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
  • Bleeding from the area where a biopsy was performed or a polyp was removed. This usually will stop on its own, but can be controlled by cauterization through a colonoscope. In very rare cases, surgery or a transfusion might be necessary.
  • Minor irritation around the injection site for the medication. This might last up to several months, but it will go away.
  • Although it is very uncommon, death is a remote possibility.