What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure in which the inside of the large intestine (colon and rectum) is examined. A colonoscopy is commonly used to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms, such as rectal and intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits. Colonoscopies are also performed in individuals without symptoms to check for colorectal polyps or cancer. A screening colonoscopy is recommended for anyone 50 years of age and older, and for anyone with parents, siblings, or children with a history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
Dr. Ammar Omanovic
Consultant Internal Medicine and Specialist of Cardiology
Why would you need an Colonoscopy?
Some of the principal reasons for having a colonoscopy include:
- Intestinal signs and symptoms like persistent abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation or chronic diarrhea.
- Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
- Chronic anemia.
- Personal or family history of intestinal inflammatory disease, like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Positive stool test for blood or inflammation.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Usually, the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and you can go home after fully recovering from the sedation. Coming back to work will be possible the next day after the procedure.
Colonoscopy is a safe procedure with minimal complications and risk rate.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I prep for my colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy prep is very important to the success of the procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you detailed instructions to follow in the days leading up to your appointment. The purpose of these preparations is to make sure your large intestine is as clean and clear as possible for your colonoscopy. If it isn’t, your endoscopist might not be able to see what they need to see. They might have to reschedule your colonoscopy, and you might have to redo these preparations another time.
You’ll begin by adjusting your diet a few days ahead of your colonoscopy. Typically, you’ll eat a low-fiber diet for two or three days, followed by a clear liquid diet on the last day. The afternoon or evening before your colonoscopy, you’ll take a laxative formula to purge your bowels (by pooping everything out). You’ll spend the next several hours in and out of the bathroom a lot. Make yourself comfortable, then get a good night’s sleep. Your colonoscopy will usually occur the following morning.
What happens on the day of the appointment?
You’ll need to bring someone with you to your appointment who can drive you home. Since it takes a full day for the anesthesia to completely wear off, most healthcare places won’t check you in for your colonoscopy unless you have a responsible driver with you. (They’ll be hanging out for about two hours altogether.) After check-in, a healthcare provider will lead you to a room where you can change into a hospital gown. A nurse will install an IV line into your arm to begin delivering sedatives and pain medication to your bloodstream.
How much time is needed to perform a colonoscopy?
The procedure typically lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
What should I expect after a colonoscopy?
You may feel some cramping or a sensation of having gas, but this quickly passes.
If a biopsy was taken or a polyp was removed, you may notice light rectal bleeding for one to two days after the procedure. If you have a large amount of rectal bleeding, high or persistent fevers, or severe abdominal pain within the next 2 weeks, go to your local emergency room and call the doctor who performed your exam.
If polyps were removed or a biopsy was taken, the doctor performing your colonoscopy will tell you when it is safe to resume taking your blood thinners.
Returning to normal diet and activities?
Unless otherwise instructed, most patients can return to their normal diet immediately following the colonoscopy. Other typical advice is to avoid alcohol, driving, regular activities, and operating machinery for 24 hours following the procedure.
Who should be screened for colon cancer and when should this happen?
It is recommended that adults above the age of 50 or even earlier if there is a family history of the disease should be screened.
Are there different types of polyps?
There are five types of polyps and two types of polyp shapes. Your doctor will explain more about them to you.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
The early stages of colon cancer often do not have symptoms, hence the reason why preventive screening is important. When a doctor finds pre-cancerous growths called polyps during a colonoscopy, it is easy for the polyps to be removed. This greatly lowers the risk of developing colon cancer.
Symptoms of colon cancer include anemia, rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and weight loss; although these symptoms are also common for other illnesses. When the symptoms are caused by cancer, the illness may be in a late stage.
Will I receive sedation for a colonoscopy?
You will receive conscious sedation, meaning that an intravenous line will be placed and medications are given intravenously. This should make you comfortable during the procedure.