What is colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the colon and rectum. Colonoscopy can detect inflamed tissue, ulcers, and abnormal growths. The procedure is used to look for early signs of colorectal cancer and can help doctors diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss.
-All solids must be emptied from the gastrointestinal tract by following a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before colonoscopy.
-During colonoscopy, a sedative, and possibly pain medication, helps keep patients relaxed.
-A doctor can remove polyps and biopsy abnormal-looking tissues during colonoscopy.
-Driving is not permitted for 24 hours after colonoscopy to allow the sedative time to wear off.
How to Prepare for Colonoscopy
The doctor will provide written instructions for bowel prep. Generally, all solids must be emptied from the gastrointestinal tract. Patients should not drink beverages containing red or purple dye.
How is colonoscopy performed?
Examination of the Large Intestine
During colonoscopy, patients lie on their left side on an examination table. In most cases, a light sedative, and possibly pain medication, helps keep patients relaxed. Deeper sedation may be required in some cases. The doctor and medical staff monitor vital signs and attempt to make patients as comfortable as possible.
Removal of Polyps and Biopsy
A doctor can remove growths, called polyps, during colonoscopy and later test them in a laboratory for signs of cancer. Polyps are common in adults and are usually harmless. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.
The doctor can also take samples from abnormal-looking tissues during colonoscopy. The procedure, called a biopsy, allows the doctor to later look at the tissue with a microscope for signs of disease.
The doctor removes polyps and takes biopsy tissue using tiny tools passed through the scope.
At what age should routine colonoscopy begin?
Routine colonoscopy to look for early signs of cancer should begin at age 50 for most people—earlier if there is a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, or other risk factors. The doctor can advise patients about how often to get a colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. Cramping or bloating may occur during the first hour after the procedure. The sedative takes time to completely wear off. Full recovery is expected by the next day. Discharge instructions should be carefully read and followed.