Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is attached to a small video camera and passed through the rectum. A colonoscopy is a crucial screening method to check for cancer or precancerous growths or polyps in the colon or rectum. In addition it helps find ulcers, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding.
During this procedure, tissue samples can be collected for biopsy and abnormal growths can be removed. The colonoscope can be used to look at the whole colon and the lower part of the small intestine.
For many people, the prep for a colonoscopy is more trying than the actual test. This is because the colon must be completely cleaned out prior to the procedure. This usually necessitates a clear liquid diet the day before the test combined with some type of laxative and/or enema. A colon prep may take one or two days depending on which type is recommended.
It is wise to stay home during your prep time as you will need to use the bathroom often. The colon prep causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test. If you need to drink a special solution as part of your prep, be sure to have clear fruit juices or soft drinks to drink after the prep because the solution tastes salty.
The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis. The patient is sedated and the exam usually takes 15–60 minutes. Most patients do not recall the actual procedure. After the procedure, patients will go to a recovery area for monitoring of their vital signs until they are fully awake. It is normal to experience mild cramping or abdominal pressure following the exam. This usually subsides within an hour or so.