Colonoscopy is a procedure used to detect any changes or abnormalities in the colon and rectum. Here we will explore what a colonoscopy is, why it is performed, the risks associated with it, how to prepare for it, and what happens after the procedure.
How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
To prepare for a colonoscopy, you will need to follow a special diet and drink a prep solution to clean out your colon. This is necessary so that the doctor can get a clear view during the procedure.
Typically you will not be able to eat solid food the day before the exam. You must have a clear liquid diet for 24 to 72 hours before the procedure. The recommended diet includes broth, plain coffee or tea, pulp-free juice, and sports drinks like Gatorade. Do not drink any liquids that contain red or purple dye as they could discolor the colon.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems, inform your doctor at least a week before the procedure. Your doctor may need to adjust the dosage of your medications or advise you to stop taking the medications temporarily. (Krans, 2020)
How Is a Colonoscopy Performed?
Colonoscopy is performed under anesthesia. A long, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum, then slowly moved through the large intestine. A small camera at the tip of the tube transmits an image of the colon lining and allows the doctor to see inside the colon to look for any abnormal growths or polyps. The scope bends and blows air into the colon, causing the colon to expand and help the doctor see more clearly. The entire procedure usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
After the doctor has finished, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn while the bowel lining is carefully examined. If the doctor sees anything abnormal during the colonoscopy, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (called a biopsy) to check for cancerous lesions. A colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis, early detection and treatment without the need for a major operation. (WebMD, 2022)
Risks Associated with a Colonoscopy
There are some risks associated with colonoscopies, such as bleeding and perforation of the colon. There is also a possibility of an adverse reaction to the sedative used during the procedure. However, these risks are rare, and most people who have colonoscopies experience no complications. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, it is essential to discuss this with your doctor.
What Happens After the Colonoscopy
During or after a colonoscopy, you may experience some cramping or bloating from the air used to inflate your colon. However, these symptoms should go away within a few hours. Walking may help to reduce discomfort.
If any polyps were found during the colonoscopy, they would be removed and sent to a laboratory for further testing. You will likely need to follow up with your doctor in a few weeks to discuss the biopsy results.
After the procedure, you will need to wait for about an hour to allow the sedative to wear off. Sometimes, it can take up to a day for the full effects of the sedative to wear off. It’s not safe for you to drive or operate machinery for the next 24 hours after the procedure. It’s recommended to arrange for a driver to bring you home after the colonoscopy.
Your doctor may recommend a special diet temporarily. You may notice a small amount of blood with your first bowel movement, and usually, it’s not a cause for alarm. However, consult your doctor if you continue to pass blood or blood clots or have persistent abdominal pain or a fever. (Mayo Clinic, 2020)
Overall, colonoscopies are safe and effective procedures that can help detect potentially serious problems early on. If you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, it is recommended that you get a colonoscopy every five years. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about this procedure.
WebMD. “Colonoscopy Procedure: What Happens & How to Prep.” WebMD, WebMD, 2022, www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/colonoscopy-what-you-need-to-know.
Krans, Brian. “What You Need to Know about a Colonoscopy.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 25 Sept. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/colonoscopy.
Mayo Clinic. “Colonoscopy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/colonoscopy/about/pac-20393569.