A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long, thin and flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. The information obtained from the camera is broadcoasted onto a monitor that gives doctors a clear view. During the procedure, if necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well. A colonoscopy can be used as a screening procedure, diagnostic procedure or therapeutic procedure.
Colonoscopies are used for many purposes. They are routinely used to to help screen diseases in individuals over the age of 50 for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopies are also used for diagnostic purposes to examine the colon for any abnormalities that can contribute to a patient's particular set of symptoms Colonoscopies are also used therapeutically to remove lesions such as polyps. Removing lesions are also used for lab analysis to determine whether lesions are cancerous or not.
-Colonoscopies are the gold standard of investigating and diagnosing lesions found in the colon.
-They are quite invasive and may require sedation to be administered to the patient in order to reduce discomfort from the procedure.
During the procedure, an intravenous [IV] line will be inserted to administer sedation to make you relaxed and drowsy. The drug will enable you to remain awake and cooperative, but it may prevent you from remembering much of the experience. Once you are fully relaxed, your doctor will perform a rectal exam with a gloved, lubricated finger; then the lubricated colonoscope will be gently inserted.As the scope is slowly and carefully passed, you may feel as if you need to move your bowels, and because air is introduced into your bowels to help inflate and advance the scope, you may experience some cramping or fullness. Generally, however, there is a little or no discomfort. The time needed for colonoscopy will vary, but on the average, the procedure lasts approximately 30 minutes. Once the procedure is completed, you will be cared for in a recovery area until the effects of the medication wears off.
A colonoscopy will require you to empty your colon beforehand to prevent any residue from obscuring the camera view during the procedure. These are the usual procedures that patients follow before their upcoming colonoscopy: 1. Follow a special diet the day before the exam - This includes not eating anything and only drink liquids such as water, drinks without milk and clear beverages. 2. Take a laxative the night before the exam - To help empty your colon 3. Use an enema kit - Either the night before the exam or a few hours before the exam. You will also need to discuss with the doctor about the medications that you are currently taking to determine whether any special changes will need to be made"
After the procedure, your doctor will inform you about the results of your colonoscopy and provide any additional information that you need to know. You will also be given instructions about how soon you can eat and drink in addition to other guidelines for resuming your normal routine. By the time you are ready to go home, you will feel stronger and more alert. Nevertheless, you should rest for the remainder of the day. It is advised that you have a family member or friend take you home.
Although colonoscopy is a safe procedure, complications can sometimes occur. This can include perforations – a puncture of colon walls, which could require surgical repair. During a diagnostic or therapeutic colonoscopy, when polyp removal or biopsy is performed, hemorrhage (heavy bleeding) may result and sometimes require blood transfusion or reinsertion of the colonoscope to control the bleeding. Another possible risk of this procedure is the use of sedations. Certain risks such as allergic reactions or side effects maybe associated with the medications used. As with any invasive procedures, there are risks of infections. These complications are unlikely, so be sure to discuss any specific concerns you may have with your doctor.
How painful is a colonoscopy?
Most people feel nothing more than slight discomfort during the procedure because mild sedation and pain medication are part of the procedure. Some people do not feel much pain even without sedation, but some may experience cramps and pain.
What happens if a polyp is found during a colonoscopy?
Polyps are usually snipped off if they are relatively small. The timing of follow-up from your doctor depends on what kind of polyps the doctor finds, how many, and how big they are. These are some of the common polyps found and what doctors do when they find them:
1. Hyperplastic polyps: These polyps are not precancerous. Doctors generally remove them anyway, just to be safe.
2. Adenomas: Two-thirds of colon polyps are of the precancerous type, called adenomas. It can take seven to 10 or more years for an adenoma to evolve into cancer—if it ever does. Overall, only 5% of adenomas progress to cancer, but your individual risk is hard to predict. Doctors remove all the adenomas they find.
3. Sessile serrated polyps: Once thought harmless, this type of adenoma is now known to be risky. These are also removed.