What is Colonoscopy?

The colonoscope is a thin flexible fiberoptic tube that allows the physician to view the inside of the colon or large intestine. The lining is examined for abnormalities such as polyps or growths, inflammatory conditions called colitis, potential causes of gastrointestinal bleeding or changes in bowel habits. The procedure generally takes 30 minutes to perform. There is an operating channel in the colonoscope which allows the doctor to pass instruments to obtain biopsies or to remove polyps.

Before the Procedure

There will be a preparation to take at home the evening before the exam to clean the patient out. Simply put, this is, at minimum, an inconvenience and no one likes it, but this is a very important step. The more complete and thorough the cleansing process, the more accurate the procedure will be.

At the Endoscopy Unit, your medical history will be obtained and an intravenous line will be started. It would be helpful to bring a list of medications you are taking. You will meet the Anesthesia team who will provide the sedation to keep you comfortable.

After the Procedure

You will be taken to a recovery area after the exam is completed. You will be observed by the nursing staff as the sedation wears off, a process that generally takes 30 to 45 minutes. You will hear the results or findings of your colonoscopy. If there are biopsies, the results will take 3 to 5 days. It is required that you have a friend or relative available to drive you home.

Risks / Complications

Many patients feel gassiness or cramping immediately after the procedure. This results from the air introduced into the colon during the exam so that the physician can see. As this gas is passed, the patients feel much better. Bleeding might occur from a biopsy or the removal of a polyp. It is usually minor. A few patients might have delayed bleeding from a polypectomy up to 10-14 days later. The major complication of colonoscopy is perforation of the colon wall. Such a tear or puncture is fortunately rare, but may require emergency surgery to repair. Every patientŐs heart rhythm, blood pressure and oxygen level are monitored continuously during the procedure to ensure the safety of the sedation.

While we admit that we are unable to visualize every polyp during the course of a colonoscopy, it should be remembered that currently represents the best and most accurate way of examining the large intestine and hopefully preventing colon cancer.