What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of your large intestine (colon) for abnormalities by inserting a thin flexible tube, as thick as your finger, into your anus and slowly advancing it into the rectum and colon.  This instrument, called a colonoscope, has its own lens and light source and it allows your doctor to view images on a video monitor.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to only view part of the colon (known as the sigmoid colon). It is not as thorough as examination as a colonoscopy, but the preparation time and method for this test is usually simpler so it is sometimes called for by physicians. The colonoscopy however is the preferred way to view the entire colon.

Reasons for a colonoscopy

  • To check for polyps or colon cancer,
  • To check the cause of rectal bleeding,
  • To check for the cause of changes in bowel habits,
  • To check the cause of iron deficiency anemia
  • If there is a family history of colon cancer
  • As a follow-up test for patients with known colon cancer or previously detected polyps
  • To provide a more thorough examination after an abnormal x-ray
  • To check the cause of chronic unexplained abdominal or rectal pain

Colonoscopy Preparation
Before colonoscopy, your colon must be completely cleaned out so that the doctor can see any abnormal areas.  Your doctor’s office will provide specific instructions on how to prepare for your colonoscopy.  It is important to follow the instructions which include dietary adjustments and bowel cleanse preparation and possibly, adjustments to your medication regimen.  A typical cleansing routine is described here.

During your Colonoscopy
You will be administered fluids and a sedative through an IV that is inserted into your arm prior to the procedure. You are likely to sleep through the test all while being closely monitored by xxx.

During the procedure the doctor might take a biopsy (small piece of tissue) or remove any polyps that are found.  Polyps are growths of tissue that can range in size from a tip of a pen to several inches.  Most polyps are not cancerous.  However, if allowed to grow for a long period of time, polyps may become cancerous.  

After Your Colonoscopy
After the colonoscopy you will be observed in the recovery area until the effects of the sedative medication wears off.  The most common complaint after colonoscopy is feeling bloated and having gas cramps.  You may also feel groggy from the sedative medications.  You should not return to work or drive on that day. You must have someone escort you home from the endoscopy suite. Most people are able to eat normally after the test.  Ask your doctor when it is safe to restart aspirin and other blood thinning medications.

Your doctor can describe the results of the colonoscopy as soon as it is over. If biopsies were taken, you should call for results within two weeks.

Complications from colonoscopy are rare but may occur. You may have bleeding from the site of a biopsy or polyp removal, but this is usually minimal and controlled. Very rarely a colonoscopy can cause a tear in the colon. It is also possible to have side effects from the sedation including nausea and xxx.

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • A firm, bloated abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Fever greater than 101 degrees Farenheit
  • Rectal bleeding (greater than 30ml) – something more relatable.