What is colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a special test that allows the physician to examine the lining of the colon (large bowel) for abnormal growths such as inflammation, polyps or cancer. With the use of a lighted, flexible colonoscope (tube), your physician will look into your colon. Biopsies of the lining of your intestine or removal of polyps may be performed. This is a well-tolerated procedure, and generally has few complications. If you have any questions after reading this information, please talk with your physician.
Who should have a colonoscopy?
Your physician may recommend that you have a colonoscopy if you have:
- A change in bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexpected abdominal pain
- Inflammatory bowel disease (colitis)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Polyps on screening flexible sigmoidoscopy or on a barium enema x-ray
- Anemia from unexplained blood loss
- Past history of colon polyps or colon cancer
- A strong family history of colon cancer
Some doctors also do a colonoscopy for routine screening after the age of 50 every five-ten years.
What preparation is required?
The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and complete. Your physician will give you detailed instructions regarding the dietary restrictions to be followed and the cleansing routine to be used. Most medications may be continued as usual, but some medications can interfere with the preparation or examination. Therefore, it is best to inform your physician of your current medications, as well as any allergies to medications, several days prior to the examination. A responsible adult should drive you to the examination and take you home, because most patients are given medications to help them relax. These medications can make you drowsy. Do not take any aspirin for ten (10) days before the procedure.
How is the procedure performed?
We do colonoscopy in our office. We may start an IV and most likely you will receive medications to help you relax during the procedure. Your oxygen level will be monitored closely. During the colonoscopy your doctor will look through the colonoscope to see the lining of the bowel. If an abnormal area is found a small biopsy or representative specimen of that area will be taken. Also, polyps or growths may be removed during the colonoscopy.
What happens after colonoscopy?
The examination usually takes less than one hour. After colonoscopy, your physician will explain the results to you. If you have been given medications during the procedure, you will be observed until most of the effects of sedation have worn off (for 30 minutes to 2 hours). You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure if you received medications. Your driver can expect to take you home about 2 hours or so after arrival. Do not drive anywhere yourself that day.
What are possible complications of colonoscopy?
Although complications after colonoscopy are uncommon, it is important for you to recognize early signs of any possible complications. Contact the physician who performed the colonoscopy if you notice any of the following symptoms: severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, vomiting, or rectal bleeding of more than one-half cup. Bleeding can occur several days after removal of a polyp.
Other potential risks may include a perforation or tear through the bowel wall, a reaction to the sedatives used, and complications from heart or lung disease. Treatment for these generally involves hospital admission.
Your physician can discuss colonoscopy with you in greater detail if you have any questions whatsoever.
Your biopsy results will be available about 7-10 days after the procedure. Call if you haven’t heard from us within two weeks.
You should also have received a pamphlet explaining the procedure. If you haven’t, ask our receptionist for one.