What is a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the rectum and colon and detect inflamed tissue, ulcers, and abnormal growths. Colonoscopy is used to look for early signs of colorectal cancer and polyps. Doctors can diagnose causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and weight loss. The doctors can sometimes remove growths, take samples, and stop bleeding.
At what age should a routine colonoscopy begin?
Routine colonoscopy to look for polyps and signs of cancer should begin at age 50 for most persons. If there’s a history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, polyps, or other risk factors, an earlier screening colonoscopy is recommended. The doctor would advise patients about how often to get a repeat colonoscopy.
How should one prepare for a colonoscopy?
The doctor provides written instructions about how to prepare for colonoscopy. The use of a laxative in pill form or powder dissolved in water may be required the night before the colonoscopy to prepare for the procedure a laxative or enemas may be ordered. A laxative is medicine that loosens stool and increases bowel movements. Patients should inform the doctor of all medical conditions, and any medications, vitamins, or supplements taken regularly prior to scheduling a colonoscopy.
When sedation is given, driving is not permitted after the procedure to allow the sedative time to wear off. Before the appointment, patients should make plans for a ride home with a responsible companion.
How is a colonoscopy performed?
Patients lie on their left side on an examination table during a colonoscopy. In most cases, a sedative, and possibly pain medication, helps keep patients relaxed. Deeper sedation may be required in some cases. The doctor and medical staff monitor vital signs and attempt to make patients as comfortable as possible.
The doctor inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope, or scope, into the anus and slowly guides it through the rectum and into the colon. The scope inflates the large intestine with air to give the doctor a better view. A small camera mounted on the scope transmits a video image from inside the large intestine to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the intestinal lining. The doctor may ask the patient to move periodically so the scope can be adjusted for better viewing.
Once the scope has reached the end of the large intestine, it is slowly withdrawn and the lining of the large intestine is carefully examined again. Bleeding and puncture of the large intestine are possible but very uncommon complications of colonoscopy.
Removal of Polyps and Biopsy
A doctor can remove growths, called polyps, during colonoscopy and later test them. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a benign polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.
The doctor can also take samples from abnormal-looking tissues during colonoscopy. The procedure, called a biopsy, allows a pathologist to later look at the tissue with a microscope for signs of disease.
The doctor removes polyps and takes biopsy tissue using tiny tools passed through the scope. If bleeding occurs, the doctor can usually stop it with an electrical probe or other special procedures. Tissue removal and the treatments to stop bleeding are usually painless.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
The success of a colonoscopy depends largely on coming to the procedure with a very clean large intestine that allows the doctor to visualize the wall of the colon. To achieve this, you must follow instructions given to you at the time of scheduling your procedure. The following are the most frequently used methods of achieving a clean colon recommended by Dr. Llaneza.
Colonoscopy usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. Cramping or bloating may occur during the first hour after the procedure. Some sedative takes time to completely wear off. Patients may need to remain at the clinic for 1 hour after the procedure. Full recovery is expected by the next day. Discharge instructions should be carefully read and followed.
Patients who develop any of these rare side effects should contact their doctor immediately:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody bowel movements
Preparations for Procedures
Informed consent will be obtained for any elective procedure performed by Dr. Llaneza. The patient will receive a full disclosure of the procedure, alternatives, risks, and possible consequences at the time of the visit. Please refer to the procedure descriptions listed under “Procedure Tab” in this website.