A colonoscopy is a procedure that lets your physician check the inside of your entire large intestine or colon. The procedure is done using a long, flexible tube with a light and tiny camera on one end. The tube is inserted into your rectum and moved into your colon.
In addition to letting your physician see the inside of your colon, the tube can be used to:
During a colonoscopy, your physician may remove tissue or abnormal growths for further exam. Your physician may be able to treat any problems that are found.
The large intestine or colon is the last section of your digestive system; absorbing water to change waste from liquid to solid stool. The large intestine is about 5 feet long in adults and has 4 sections:
The rectum joins the anus which is the opening where stool passes out of your body.
A colonoscopy can help your physician look for problems in your colon that can include any early signs of cancer, red or swollen tissues, ulcers, and bleeding. A colonoscopy is also used to screen for colorectal cancer. Screening means looking for cancer in people who don’t have any symptoms of the disease.
A colonoscopy may be used to check and, if needed, treat symptoms or conditions such as:
It may be used to find the cause of unexplained, long-term (chronic) diarrhea or bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as well. It can also be used to check the colon after cancer treatment.
A colonoscopy may be used when other tests such as a barium enema, CT colonography, tests for blood in stool, stool DNA tests or sigmoidoscopy show the need for more testing.
Complications related to a colonoscopy may include, but are not limited to:
You may have other risks, depending on your condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician before the procedure.
You may have a colonoscopy as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your physician’s practices. Generally, the colonoscopy follows this process:
After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room to be watched; your recovery process will depend on the type of sedative you had. Once your blood pressure, pulse and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you will be taken to your hospital room, or you may be discharged to your home.
You can usually eat whatever you feel you can tolerate after the procedure; some patients start with small, bland meals, and some do not.
You may pass gas and feel gas pains after the procedure; this is normal. Walking and moving about may help to ease any mild pain.
You should not drink alcohol for at least 24 hours, and you may be asked to drink extra fluids to make up for the water you lost as you got ready for the procedure.
Tell your physician if you have any of the following:
Your physician may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.