What is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a safe, non-invasive, non-surgical endoscopic procedure that allows our doctors to evaluate the lower part of your gastrointestinal tract including your small intestine, large intestine aka colon, rectum, and anus.
Why would I need a Colonoscopy?
Our doctors perform not only colonoscopies for colon polyp and colon cancer screening but also utilizes colonoscopies to investigate a variety of lower gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders that include but are not limited to:
- Constipation, Diarrhea or Change in Bowel Habits
- Abdominal/Anorectal Pain
- Bleeding and Anemia
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Inflammation and Ulceration
How do I prepare for my Colonoscopy?
After scheduling your colonoscopy you will be given instructions for a bowel preparation designed to clean out your colon. The bowel preparation occurs the day before your colonoscopy and includes a clear liquid diet and a gentle, safe, palatable, affordable, low volume bowel prep. The bowel prep is designed to clean out stool from your colon. An effective cleanout is one in which the effluent that is passed from your colon is clear and looks similar to the bowel prep without any particulate matter. A clean colon is important because the presence of stool inside the colon prevents adequate visualization and removal of polyps. After you have completed the full bowel prep you will be asked to avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight. This is to ensure that your stomach will be empty prior to the procedure allowing our doctors to visualize your gastrointestinal tract and to prevent vomiting and aspiration while sedated. Remember that good preparation allows for the safest and most effective procedure!
NOTE Bowel preps can sometimes cause some nausea and bloating which will alleviate once bowel movements commence but if your symptoms are significant wait 1-2 hours to allow your stomach to settle. It is sometimes helpful to rinse your mouth out and brush your teeth to clear out the taste from your mouth. In the meantime chill the prep even more and once your symptoms alleviate begin drinking but at a slower rate. If you continue to vomit call our office to receive further instructions. If you are prone to developing nausea and vomiting please inform the office and you may be eligible for prophylactic anti-emetic (eg. Zofran).
What medications can I take or not take before my Colonoscopy?
Most prescription and non-prescription medicines including herbals, vitamins, and supplements can be taken up to the day of your procedure with a sip of water. However, blood thinners and diabetic medications may need to be modified. Please contact our doctors’ office or endoscopy center if you have any questions or need to review your medication list.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
We understand that undergoing a GI procedure can cause some apprehension but be rest assured that you are in the best of hands in a state-of-the-art facility. Your comfort, well-being, and peace of mind are paramount and we hope that the following description of your procedure day will alleviate some of your fears.
Your colonoscopy appointment will last approximately two hours with the procedure itself taking approximately one hour. Upon arrival to your assigned endoscopy center or hospital, you will fill out paperwork, change into a gown and a trained nurse will start an IV. Our staff will then review a consent form with you and our doctors will be available should you have any questions or concerns about your procedure. A nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist will then administer a safe, fast-acting sedative through your IV to make you comfortably asleep during the procedure. During this time your vitals will be closely monitored including heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, electrocardiogram, breathing rate, and oxygen level. While asleep on your left side our doctors will carefully pass a small flexible high definition camera thinner than the size of your finger called a “colonoscope” through your colon. During your colonoscopy, your colon will be inflated with air to provide visualization of it’s lining. At this point, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue are removed through the scope using a variety of techniques including biopsy forceps and cautery snares.
After your colonoscopy is complete you will wake up and our doctors and his staff will discuss the findings with you and your family. In addition, before discharge, you will be given a detailed report with images of your exam. If biopsies are obtained results will be available for review in 1-2 weeks. Because sedatives cause temporary changes in your reflexes and judgment we ask you to not drive, sign important documents, or perform strenuous activities the rest of your procedure day. As such you will need someone to take you home after your procedure. Unless otherwise specified you are able to resume a normal diet once you are awake and you will be able to return to normal daily function the following day.
Before discharge, you will be instructed on when to restart medicines. Pathology is typically available within two weeks of your procedure. For normal screening colonoscopies, Our doctors will contact you if there are any unusual findings. For diagnostic colonoscopies, Our doctors will meet with his patients two weeks after the procedure to discuss findings in detail and further treatment.
What are the possible complications?
Following the procedure it is normal to experience some cramping, bloating, and gas for a few days. Aside from these anticipated side effects, colonoscopy is one of the safest gastrointestinal procedures, and complications are very uncommon.
Some potential complications are listed below:
- Bleeding (most commonly stops on its own and is minor)
- Perforation (requires admission to hospital and possible surgical repair)
- Damage to abdominal organs
- Reaction to sedative medication
- Aspiration of gastric contents into lungs
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- Severe Pain
- Difficulty Breathing
- Worsening Swallowing
Like any other medical test, colonoscopy is not perfect and certain small abnormalities can very rarely be missed. Nevertheless, colonoscopy remains the gold standard for the diagnosis and treatment of most lower gastrointestinal conditions including colon polyps and colon cancer.