A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure performed to examine the inside of the colon and rectum. The colonoscopy procedure can aid in determining the cause of changes in bowel activity, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, as well as detect early signs of cancer. A colonoscopy may be recommended as an option for people who are at risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum, known as colorectal cancer, or CRC.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
Patients will be given a set of written instructions to follow. A clear liquid diet should be followed for 1 to 3 days prior to the procedure. Depending on the instructions provided, a laxative or enema may be required. Patients may need to drink a special bowel cleansing solution, the day before the procedure. Most medications can still be taken, although some such as aspirin or blood thinners may require special instructions.
The Colonoscopy Procedure
Before the colonoscopy procedure, an intravenous, or IV, with a light sedative will be used to make the patient comfortable. Vital signs will be monitored throughout the procedure. The patient will lie on their left side as the colonoscope is inserted into the anus and guided to the opening of the small intestine. The colonoscope is then slowly withdrawn from the colon and the lining of the colon is examined carefully by the physician. The removal of polyps, or growths, for biopsy may also be conducted during the procedure. The colonoscopy procedure usually takes between 30-60 minutes to perform.
After the procedure, patients will be kept under observation for up to 2 hours, until the sedative used for the procedure wears off. Reflexes and judgment may be impaired and driving is not permitted for 24 hours after the procedure. Some people may experience pressure, bloating and cramping in the abdomen after the procedure, but these effects are temporary.
Complications of a Colonoscopy
Complications of a colonoscopy are rare. If they do occur, complications can include fever, abdominal pain, dizziness, bleeding from a biopsy site, perforation of the bowel wall or a reaction to the medication used in the IV.