A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure in which your large bowel (colon and rectum) is examined.
Your provider may perform the procedure to diagnose and treat, when possible, certain diseases of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the rectum and colon. In the colon, polyps can be removed through the scope to prevent the development of colon cancer.
A colonoscopy may be used to evaluate many problems, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Anemia (low red blood cells)
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Screen for colon cancer
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in bowel habits (chronic constipation or diarrhea)
- Polyps or growths in the colon
It is often used to treat certain diseases, such as:
- Bleeding from diverticula or other lesions can be treated by injecting medicine around them or by applying heat to cauterize or seal them.
- Polyps, some of which may be cancerous, can be removed using a lasso-like device through the colonoscope.
How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
Please select the following for preparation instructions for a colonoscopy:
How Is a Colonoscopy Performed?
The colonoscopy is performed by an experienced provider and lasts approximately 30-60 minutes. You will receive medication to make you feel relaxed. You will be asked to lie on your left side on the examining table. During a colonoscopy, the provider uses a colonoscope, a long, flexible, tubular instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter that transmits an image of the lining of the colon so the provider can examine it for any abnormalities. The colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine.
The scope bends, so the provider can move it around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the doctor move the scope. The scope also blows air into your colon, which expands the colon and helps the provider to see.
You may feel mild cramping during the procedure. You can reduce the cramping by taking several slow, deep breaths during the procedure. When the provider has finished, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is carefully examined.
During the colonoscopy, if the provider sees something that may be abnormal, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (called a biopsy) and abnormal growths, or polyps, can be identified and removed.
What Happens After a Colonoscopy?
After you have a colonoscopy:
- You will stay in a recovery room for about 30 minutes for observation.
- You may feel some cramping or a sensation of having gas, but this usually passes quickly.
- You will need to have a responsible adult drive you home, as it is unsafe to drive or operate machinery for about 8 hours after the procedure (due to the sedative medication given).
- You can resume your normal diet.
Read your discharge instructions carefully. Certain medications, such as blood-thinning agents, may need to be avoided temporarily if biopsies were taken or polyps were removed.