Colonoscopy procedure is an indispensable method that helps physicians look into the colon and rectal areas of people who show signs and symptoms of colon cancer and gastrointestinal problems. The procedure is done by a specially trained physician who will insert a special tube outfitted with a camera to allow viewing of the whole procedure on a video monitor. The patient should be aware that the procedure may cause some complications, but these rarely occur.
Those who will undergo the colonoscopy procedure will receive detailed guidelines from their physicians in preparation for the procedure. The patient should follow these guidelines as these contribute to obtaining successful results.
Purpose of colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is primarily done to evaluate the underlying cause of intestinal symptoms manifested by the patient such as chronic constipation and diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal complaints. In addition, this procedure is done when screening for colon cancer. It is considered as the gold standard of screening for people who are at risk of developing this type of cancer.
Candidates for colonoscopy procedure
Physicians highly recommend colonoscopy to those who are experiencing various conditions such as:
- Bloody stool
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in bowel movement
- Abnormalities revealed by a CT scan or colonic X-ray
Individuals who have a family history of colon problems or non-colon cancers will also be recommended to undergo the procedure, including those who have had a history of colon cancer and polyps. Colonoscopy procedure is done periodically, depending on the level of risk and abnormalities discovered during the previous procedure. The procedure is also recommended for healthy people aged 50 and up even though they do not have the risk factors for colon cancer.
How to prepare for a colonoscopy procedure
There are special guidelines that must be closely followed by patients who will be going through colonoscopy procedure. These generally involve emptying one’s colon several hours before the procedure because any residue found therein can mask the clear view of the rectum and colon. Emptying the stomach involves doing the following things:
- Following a special diet
The physicians will require the patient to follow a special diet a day before the colonoscopy procedure which involves avoiding red foods and liquids, including solid foods. Clear liquids may be allowed.
- Taking laxatives
This may either be taken in liquid or pill form the night before the procedure.
- Using an enema kit
Physicians may recommend an over-the-counter enema kit to help empty the stomach.
Those who are taking medications should inform their physicians as these drugs may hinder getting accurate test results. Depending on the recommendations of the physician, the dosage of these medications may be adjusted or discontinued momentarily.
During the procedure, the patient will be sedated to minimize pain. This is given either in the form of pills or combined with the IV pain medication. The doctor will then insert a special tool called colonoscope into the rectum. The colonoscope is a long thin tube outfitted with a light and video camera to allow the doctor to get a better view of the areas of the colon and rectum. He or she would then take some tissue samples or even remove polyps. The procedure usually lasts from 20 minutes to 1 hour.
The patient will still feel the effects of the sedative a day after procedure. He or she may be allowed to go home the same day after the procedure but is not allowed to return to work or drive throughout the day. The patient may pass gas or feel bloated a few hours following the exam, as well as notice a tinge of blood on his or her first bowel movement after the procedure. The patient needs to see the doctor if he/she is experiencing unrelenting abdominal pain, high fever and blood clots in the bowel.
Risks of colonoscopy procedure
Complications due to colonoscopy rarely occur, but some of these are:
- Adverse reaction to the sedative
The sedative used during the procedure may have adverse effects on the health of the patient resulting to breathing problems, allergies on the site of injection, low blood pressure, vomiting and nausea.
Excessive hemorrhaging or bleeding may occur when tissue samples are taken during the procedure.
- Perforation of rectum or colon wall
Tearing in the rectum or colon wall can happen in various ways. The equipment used during the test could initiate the perforation. It could also be due to the removal of tissue or too much air used in distending the colon, putting too much pressure on the lining of the colon.
This may occur when the doctor applies extra force when maneuvering the colonoscope in the colon.
This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s bowel has become perforated.
The colonoscopy procedure helps physicians determine the underlying cause of gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by the patient. It also helps in confirming the occurrence of colon cancer even for people who do are not at risk of the disease. The procedure is helpful in the definitive diagnosis of colon cancer and gastrointestinal problems but it has some risks that patients should be aware of and discuss with their physicians before going through with the colonoscopy procedure.