A Colonoscopy is a visual examination of the large intestine (colon) using a flexible video scope that has a camera on the end of it. A colonoscopy is usually performed on an outpatient basis. The patient sleeps through the examination through an IV sedative that is begun before the colonoscopy begins.
The gastroenterologist is visualizing the colon as the colonoscope is passed through the entire colon, and in this regard complete evaluation of the colon lining is performed. Often times the colonoscopy is performed for screening purposes, that is, the patient has no GI symptoms or there may be symptoms present such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, etc. that are the reason for the examination. If during the examination, a polyp is detected this is removed. A colon polyp is a benign growth that over time can become cancerous, and these can generally be removed at the time of colonoscopy to prevent a cancer from developing. Of course colon cancer is looked for as well, and if a colon cancer is detected early it may be entirely curable – this is often the reason for colonoscopy screenings. Other findings could include diverticulosis (pockets along the intestinal wall), bleeding lesions or colitis such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
The day prior to the examination the colon must be cleaned out, and a variety of colon preps are used today. We will recommend the easiest yet most efficient and appropriate prep for you when the appointment is made.
After the colonoscopy the patient is taken to a holding area to sleep off the IV sedative, then is able to go home shortly thereafter, usually within one half hour. After being sedated driving is not allowed, so you must have somebody with you in order to drive you home that day, and we do not recommend that you drive or operate any machinery for 12 hours. In most cases, a normal diet can be resumed after the colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy usually takes between 15-30 minutes with another 30 minutes of recovery time. We do ask the patient to check in earlier than that in order to go through registration and precolonoscopy evaluation with the nursing staff. Therefore, one should allow approximately two hours from check in to check out for your colonoscopy. At the end of the exam the physician will speak with you, and a summary of the findings along with recommendations and usually photographs plus information regarding various conditions that may have been found during the examination are given to the patient in a packet.