A colonoscopy is the visual examination of the lining of the colon. The large colon is about 5-6 feet long. The purpose of the exam is to identify any abnormalities by using a flexible fiberoptic tube. The tube, which is about the thickness of your finger, is slowly passed through the length of the colon to the cecum.
Colonoscopies are most commonly done to screen for colon cancer; however the results obtained from the colonoscopy may also help explain the cause of symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. A screening colonoscopy is recommended for anyone age 50 or older. These age guidelines may differ based on race or family history of cancer. Colonoscopies can also be done to evaluate Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The colon must be thoroughly clean in order for the exam to be accurate and complete. Please closely follow your preparation instructions. Do not have anything to eat or drink except for clear liquids for the 24 hours prior to the exam. Please notify our office immediately if you are taking any blood thinners (coumadin, Plavix, Aggrenox) or diabetic medications. Remember that you must have someone who can drive you home from your procedure. Not following preparation instructions or not bringing a driver may result in an inability to perform the colonoscopy.
You will be sedated for the procedure with the drug Propofol and will be monitored by anesthesia. Please notify our office of any medication allergies. The colonoscopy is done by inserting a flexible lighted tube into the rectum to examine the lining of the large intestine. With the most advanced technology and medications, the patient will likely feel no pain or discomfort throughout the entire procedure. The physician may biopsy (take tissue samples) during the examination. The specimens will be sent to the pathologist for examination under the microscope. Biopsies are not painful.
A polyp is a growth that is attached to the inside of the colon. Not all polyps are precancerous. Most of these growths are benign but their removal is strongly recommended so that the polyp may be examined under the microscope, permitting an exact diagnosis to be made. A polyp can either be hyperplastic or adenomatous. Hyperplastic signifies that it will likely never turn into cancer. An adenomatous polyp means that it could potentially develop into colon cancer over time as it grows and enlarges. At times, a polyp is discovered unexpectedly during the course of a colonoscopy examination, which is being done for other reasons. We recommend that all patients give us permission ahead of time to remove polyps if they are discovered.
If a polyp is discovered, thin snare wire is passed through the colonoscope and the polyp is removed. The polyp is then brought out of the colon and sent to the pathologist for further examination. Depending on the number, size, and type of polyps found during your procedure, your return for another colonoscopy could be 3, 5 or 10 years. Receiving screening colonoscopies and following protocols for repeat exams can significantly lower your chances of developing colon cancer. For further information on polyps, colonoscopies, or other GI conditions see patient education under the patient information tab.
If a biopsy is taken during your examination, our office will call you with your pathology results in 7-10 business days.
Colonoscopies are safe and are associated with a very low risk. Complications occur but are rare. The possible complications of colonoscopy and polypectomy (polyp removal) include perforation (rupture) of the colon, hemorrhage from the colon and side effects due to the medications (sedatives) which are given. Please notify the physician if you are taking any blood thinners (coumadin, Aggrenox, Plavix). Please review all of your medications with the office as well as any medication allergies.
After you wake up, the physician will talk to you about your exam. You may feel some bloating for about 30-60 minutes after the exam. This sensation will be relieved as gas is passed. We recommend walking around to assist in passing gas. You may also feel sleepy for several hours after the exam from the medications given prior to the exam. Do not plan to return to work, drive or sign any legal documents for the remainder of the day. You may begin eating after leaving the office. We recommend eating light foods that are not too greasy or heavy.
If your physician removes polyps or takes a tissue biopsy during your examination, his/her nurse will contact you in 7-10 business days with the pathology results.
Every patient must have a driver who is over the age of 18 to drive them home from their procedure. The driver MUST remain in the building and stay on-site for the entire duration of the procedure.