Understanding Colonoscopy

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside lining of your large intestine (colon) by using a thin flexible tube with an attached camera called a colonoscope.

Why is a colonoscopy recommended?

A colonoscopy may be recommended by your doctor as a screening test to check for polyps and cancer in the colon and rectum. It is recommended to have your first colonoscopy at age 45, but earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or if you have had inflammatory bowel disease in the past. Several other reasons to get a colonoscopy include but are not limited to persistent abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, chronic diarrhea, unintentional weight loss, abnormal imaging, anemia, bloody or tarry stool, inflammatory bowel disease, and history of colon polyps or colon cancer.

How should I prepare for a colonoscopy?

Your doctor will give you instructions regarding what to do before a colonoscopy. Typically, you will have to be on a clear liquid diet and take a bowel preparation to cleanse your colon the day before your procedure. Be sure to give your doctor a complete list of your medications as you may need to stop some of them up to a week before the exam.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

During a colonoscopy you will be lying on your side and the doctor will insert a colonoscope into your anus and advance it to the cecum to examine your entire colon. You will be under light anesthesia and not experience pain. Your doctor may remove polyps, stop bleeding or biopsy any abnormal tissue during your procedure.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

After a colonoscopy you will be monitored in the recovery room until most of the sedation has worn off. You may have some abdominal cramping and bloating but this should resolve once you pass gas. Your doctor will give you further instructions.

What are the risks and possible complications of colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is generally very safe but some complications may include bleeding, perforation, infection and reaction to the medications you are given for sedation. Call your doctor or nurse if you experience any fever, vomiting, distended abdomen or significant bleeding after your procedure.


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