A colonoscopy allows the doctor to view the entire length of your colon (large bowel) through a thin, flexible tube with a camera called a colonoscope. It's a specialized procedure during which your doctor inserts the colonoscope into your rectum and colon. The colon is inflated with air to permit a detailed examination of the entire lining. A clear view of the colon lining allows the doctor to detect growths, areas of inflammation or other abnormalities. Your doctor can then utilize multiple instruments during the procedure to biopsy the colon lining and remove any polyps or growths.
Your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy for the following reasons:
- Colon cancer screening is recommended for everyone age 50 and older, African Americans age 45 and over, and anyone with a family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Rectal bleeding
- Chronic diarrhea
- Unexplained abdominal pain, weight loss, or change in bowel habits
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Abnormalities seen on scanning tests, such as inflammation of the bowel wall seen on a CT scan
- Diagnosis and follow-up of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
Prior to a colonoscopy, you will be asked to cleanse all waste from your colon. This allows your doctor to fully and clearly evaluate the colon lining for any polyps or other abnormalities. There are very specific instructions to clear or empty your colon. We may also ask you to temporarily stop some medications, such as blood thinners, before your procedure.
What To Expect
Plan to arrive at our endoscopy center between 60 and 90 minutes before your scheduled procedure time. You will need to be accompanied by a driver, who must remain at the endoscopy center during the procedure. After check-in, we will carefully review your medical history. We will then insert an IV into your arm, so we can provide medications and fluids during the procedure. You will then be escorted to a private procedure room. Before the procedure, you will receive medication to make you comfortable and sleepy (propofol). You will likely sleep through the entire procedure and should not feel any discomfort. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist will monitor you throughout the procedure to ensure your comfort and safety. Once you are comfortably asleep, your doctor will perform your colonoscopy. This will take approximately 30 minutes. After the procedure, you will be brought to our recovery suite. Your doctor will review the findings from the procedure and will provide a written report with photographs.
You may feel bloating or gas distention immediately after your procedure. Typically, this will subside after passing gas. You may also experience temporary cramping. The sedation that you received will rapidly wear off, but you may be slightly groggy after the procedure.
Colonoscopy is a very safe procedure. However, as with any medical procedures there are certain risks, including:
- Bleeding: You may experience bleeding if your doctor removes large or multiple polyps. This is estimated to occur in less than 1% of colonoscopies during which a polyp is removed.
- Injury to the bowel: This is an extremely rare complication, estimated to occur once in every 10,000 colonoscopies
- Breathing difficulties or a reaction to anesthesia.