Gastroenterologists are specialists who know how to perform a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows examiners to evaluate any abnormalities or problems involving the colon and rectum. It is performed by medical professionals for conditions involving inflamed tissues, diarrhea, abnormal tissue growths, abdominal pain, anal bleeding, changes in bowel movement, abnormalities found during a colon CT scan or X-ray and for periodic monitoring for colon cancer. When your doctor decides to perform a colonoscopy, there are a number of things you should expect.
- Bowel prep. This takes place before the procedure is performed. The doctor will give you written instructions for emptying solids from the gastrointestinal system through a strict liquid diet for three days prior to your colonoscopy. Patients are only allowed to take liquids, such as water, plain tea, plain coffee, fat-free broth and gelatin. Laxatives or enemas may be given the night before the procedure.
- Pre-procedural preparation. The patient is prepared for the procedure, and vital signs are monitored. Medication is often provided intravenously to relax the patient. Pain medication is often administered to help the patient to better tolerate the sensation when the colonoscopy is performed.
- Patient position. The patient is placed on his left side, lying down. This allows the doctor to better perform the colonoscopy.
- Insertion of colonoscope. The scope is slowly inserted into the anus to go through the rectum and into the colon. A carbon dioxide gas is released through the scope to enlarge the large intestine for a clearer view. The doctor gets a better view through a video taken from the small camera mounted on the scope. The intestinal lining is then examined by the doctor.
- Removal of polyps and abnormal tissues. A colonoscopy is a procedure that can best identify the presence of colon polyps, which can be associated with the development of colon cancer. Once the polyps have been removed, they may be taken for biopsy. Other tissue abnormalities seen during a colonoscopy can be removed using tiny instruments in the scope to test for pathology.
- Procedure length. Performing a colonoscopy usually takes between 30 to 60 minutes.
- Recovery. The patient may be asked to stay for further monitoring for two more hours post-colonoscopy, as cramping or bloating can occur in the first hour after the procedure. The patient will be provided with more instructions before finally being discharged from the hospital or clinic. Any discomfort after the colonoscopy, such as severe abdominal pain, bloody stool, fever, weakness or dizziness, must be reported to the doctor immediately.
- Complications. Complications are rare in a colonoscopy. Constipation, bloating, cramps, flatulence, dehydration and abnormal stool are among the manageable side effects of undergoing the procedure, and are usually temporary in nature. Increased blood clot risk is possible with an overdose in anesthesia administration, and other complications, such as infection, can happen if the procedure was performed incorrectly.