What is a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an examination of the colon

Colonoscopy is an examination that enables a careful evaluation of the lining of the colon (large intestine) for abnormalities. It is performed by inserting a colonoscope (that is constructed with a flexible tube with a camera at the end) into the anus and slowly advancing it inside the colon, examining the entire extent of the colonic wall.

How do you prepare for a colonoscopy?

Multiple steps are necessary to achieve optimal bowel prep

Preparing for colonoscopy is somewhat involved. It is necessary to follow a dietary restrictions to cleanse the bowel for colonoscopy. In general, the colonoscopy preparation consists of consuming a large volume of a special cleansing solution and clear liquids. The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate and reliable.

What medications do I need to take to clean out my bowel?

Various medications are used for bowel prep

There are various medications that are utilized to clean out the bowel, in preparation for colonoscopy. The choice of bowel medication is not as critical to the success of colonoscopy, as is the strict adherence to the instruction accompanying each bowel prep. Each prep medications is designed to thoroughly cleanse the colon so that your doctor can have an accurate visualization of the colon. Commonly utilized bowel preparation medications include GoLytely, MiraLAX, Moviprep, Prepopik, and Suprep.

What do I do with my daily medications?

Some medications may need to be adjusted during colonoscopy

Most medications can be continued as usual, but there are some medications that can cause problem during the examination. In particular, various blood thinners can cause bleeding if a polyp is found and has to be removed. You should consult your physician with a complete list of your medications and have them reviewed before proceeding with the colonoscopy preparation. You should also inform your physician if you require antibiotics prior to dental procedures, because this may also need to be given prior to colonoscopy.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy usually lasts anywhere between 15 to 60 minutes to perform

Colonoscopy is usually well-tolerated. You might feel pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure. In general, an intravenous sedative are administered to help you relax and better tolerate any discomfort. During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your side or back while the instrument is slowly advanced through the large intestine. This is repeated during withdrawal. The procedure itself can take anywhere between 15 to 60 minutes, although there may be additional time necessary for waiting and recovery. In rare cases, the examination may be difficult and a complete examination may not be technically possible. In these cases, another examination called barium enema or virtual colonoscopy using a CT scan might be needed.

What can be seen during a colonoscopy?

There are many conditions that can be diagnosed

Many conditions can be detected during a colonoscopy. They include bleeding source, diverticulosis, colitis often seen with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, colon polyp, or even colon cancer.

If an abnormality is found and further evaluation is deemed necessary, a sampling of tissue (biopsy) may be taken to be analyzed under the microscope. Biopsies are performed to identify various conditions including inflammation (colitis), colon polyp (an abnormal growth), or even colon cancer. If colonoscopy is being performed to identify sites of bleeding, a technique may be utilized to control the bleeding through the colonoscope by injecting medications or by coagulation (sealing off bleeding vessels with heat treatment). If a polyp is found during colonoscopy, it is often removed using a technique called polypectomy. This does not cause any pain or discomfort.

What is a colon polyp?

Colon polyp is usually pre-neoplastic and needs to be removed

Colon polyps are abnormal growths in the colon lining that are usually not cancerous. They vary in size from a tiny dimple to several inches. It is very difficult to know for certain if the polyp is benign or cancerous. Therefore, most polyps, when found, are removed and sent for analysis. Because cancer is thought to begin as a colonic polyp, its removal (polypectomy) is an important means of preventing colon cancer.

A very tiny polyp are often removed by fulguration (burning) or by removing them with wire loops called snares or with biopsy instruments. For a large polyp, a technique called snare polypectomy is used for its removal. This technique involves passing a wire loop through the colonoscope and removing the polyp from the intestinal wall using an electrical current. There is no pain or discomfort associated with the polypectomy.

What should I watch for after a colonoscopy?

You should contact your doctor if you develop these symptoms

Colonoscopy including removal of colon polyp is generally very safe when performed by a qualified, fully trained, and experienced physician. A rare complication that can rarely occur is called perforation, or tear, through the bowel wall that could require immediate medical attention. Bleeding is another complication that may occur at the site of biopsy or polypectomy. Bleeding usually stops on its own, but may be persistent especially if you are on a blood thinner.

Although complications after colonoscopy are extremely rare, it is important to be aware of early signs of possible adverse effect. You should contact your doctor immediately, if you experience severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, or excessive amount of bleeding.