What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure whereby the gastroenterologist examines the inside of the large intestine and colon. A colonoscopy is recommended if the patient is experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, or rectal bleeding. A colonoscopy is also recommended if the patient experiences changes in bowel habits. A gastroenterologist will perform a colonoscopy if there is a suspicion of colorectal cancer.
A screening colonoscopy is recommended for everyone 50 years of age and older, and for anyone with family members (parents, siblings or children) with a history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
The success of the colonoscopy depends on the patient’s preparation (prep). It is very important that the bowel be clean so that the gastroenterologist can clearly view all aspects of the colon. The patient must read and follow all of the instructions for their bowel prep. Without proper preparation, the colonoscopy will not be successful and the test may have to be repeated.
While doing the prep, it is not uncommon for the patient to feel nauseated. They may even vomit. If this occurs, wait 30 minutes before continuing and start with smaller sips of the solution. Physical activity (walking) may help decrease the feelings of nausea. If the symptoms persist, the patient should contact our office.
During the Procedure
In most cases, anesthesia will be administered via intravenous (IV) fluids prior to the procedure. An anesthesiologist will be present to monitor the patient’s vital signs and to ensure the proper dosage of drugs.
During a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist inserts a colonoscope (a long, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter) into the rectum to view the colon. The colonoscope is carefully advanced through the large intestine so that the entire organ can be examined. During the procedure, the gastroenterologist may perform a biopsy whereby a small amount of tissue is removed for analysis. If a polyp is suspected, it will be removed.
Once the procedure is completed, the anesthesiologist will slowly wake the patent by reducing anesthesia. In most cases, the patient does not remember any of the procedure.
After the Procedure
Following the procedure, the patient will stay in a recovery room for observation until they are ready for discharge. The patient may experience some cramping or feel the need to pass gas. This is caused by the introduction of air into the colon during the procedure so that the gastroenterologist can clearly see the walls. The patient is encouraged to pass gas, which indicates that the colon is functioning properly.
If the patient is given anesthesia, a responsible adult must provide transportation. The patient should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours.
Before the patient leaves, the gastroenterologist will review their findings. He may also provide prescriptions if they are required. The GI nurse will provide written instructions for the patient to follow as well as other information regarding colon health.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask the doctor, the GI nurse, or the technician.
If you have any questions, or if you experience any continuing discomfort from your procedure, please contact our office.