Colonoscopy

During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining of your colon by inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera (called a colonoscope) into your anus and advancing it into the rectum and large intestine.

Why is colonoscopy recommended?

With approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States each year (50,000 of which result in death,) it is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.  It is estimated that increased screening would save at least 30,000 of these lives each year.  In addition to screening purposes, a colonoscopy can also be used to evaluate for diagnostic symptoms such as bleeding or chronic diarrhea.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

The procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes, however you should plan to be at the facility at least two hours for preparation and recovery.

During the exam,

  • you will lie on your left side.
  • you will be given medicine through an IV line in your hand or arm to completely sedate you.
  • your heart rate and oxygen levels will be monitored continuously.  If necessary, you may be given fluids through the IV line.
  • your doctor will insert the colonoscope into your anus and will advance it slowly through the rectum and colon, looking for abnormal tissue or polyps.

Will the physician be able to examine my entire colon?

In most cases, yes.  A full examination of the colon (or large intestine) from the cecum (where the large intestine begins) to the rectum is called cecal intubation.  A physician performing colonoscopies should be able to accomplish cecal intubation in 90% of patients; GAP’s success rate exceeds this benchmark at 99%.

What if the colonoscopy shows something abnormal?

There are several painless techniques that use certain special instruments to deal with abnormalities such as polyps or bleeding.  If your doctor sees an area that needs further evaluation, they might take a biopsy (a sample of the colon lining) to be analyzed.  If the procedure is being performed to identify sites of bleeding, it may be controlled by injecting medication, cauterization (sealing off bleeding vessels with heat) or with small clips.

What are polyps and why are they removed?

Polyps are abnormal growths in the colon lining that can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous.)  Sizes varies from a tiny dot to several inches.  You can’t visually see the difference between a benign polyp and a malignant one, so they are usually removed for analysis.

What preparation is required?

The colon must be completely clean for the procedure to be accurate.  Therefore, your doctor will give you instructions including dietary restrictions (such as a clear, liquid diet) paired with the consumption of a bowel cleansing solution.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

After the exam,

  • your judgment and reflexes could be impaired. Therefore, a family member or friend must be present for the entirety of your appointment.
  • you will rest for about 30 minutes after the colonoscopy until most of the effects of the medication have worn off.
  • you may have some cramping or bloating afterwards because of the air introduced into the colon during the procedure. This is normal and should disappear quickly by passing gas.
  • your doctor will explain the results of the examination and a nurse will provide you with complete discharge instructions before you leave. Any tissue samples or polyps removed during the exam will be sent to a lab for evaluation; these results can take up to two weeks.
  • you should be able to resume a normal diet immediately and your usual activities the next day. You should, however, avoid alcohol on the day of your exam.
  • a full report will be sent to your primary care or referring provider.

What are the possible complications of a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is generally considered very safe.  Although uncommon, it’s important to recognize signs of complication.  Some rectal bleeding can normally occur for several days after the procedure, but it is important to contact your doctor if it is accompanied by severe abdominal pain or fever and chills.  Perforation (or tear) can also occur through the bowel wall, requiring surgery.  Minor bleeding might occur at the site of biopsy or polyp removal.  Patients with heart or lung disease could potentially experience complications from the sedatives.

Over 50? Screening is now even more convenient!

Our open access colonoscopy allows qualifying healthy patients without significant gastrointestinal symptoms to have a screening colonoscopy without the inconvenience of a preliminary appointment. It saves time, money, and most importantly it saves lives.

Our highly trained staff can determine if you qualify for this program. If you feel you are a candidate, contact our office. We will review your medical history over the phone, ensuring it is safe to proceed with the procedure without a preliminary appointment.