HomeHealth A-ZColonoscopy: Procedure, What Should you Expect & Results

Colonoscopy: Procedure, What Should you Expect & Results

Colonoscopy is a medical procedure done by a trained medical expert in which the insides of the colon, or large intestine, is examined.

Every year, thousands of people get a colonoscopy as a part of their routine medical examination. However, most people do not know the significance of getting the test while others aren’t sure of what to expect during the test.

It is important to understand that a colonoscopy is a valuable screening tool. It is performed by trained medical practitioners in medical facilities . Here we discuss the aspects of a colonoscopy, what you can expect when getting one, and perhaps most importantly if it is painful

What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a medical procedure done by a trained medical expert in which the insides of the colon, or large intestine, is examined. It is done with the help of a colonoscope, which is a long flexible tube with a light & camera attached to one end. The camera sends its feed to a monitor where the colon is visualised .

The colonoscope is inserted into the patient’s body through the anus and extended along the rectum  right up the entire large intestine or, in some cases, up to the last part of the small intestine.

Why Should You Get a Colonoscopy?

Your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons to get the procedure done is to screen for colon cancer. Patients who are above 50 years of age are more at risk of developing colon cancer and thus require proper screening.

You might also require a colonoscopy if you are exhibiting symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, or blood in the stool. The procedure is an exploratory examination to determine the cause of such symptoms.

A third reason for the procedure could be that you have a family history of colon cancer or a personal history of polyps. That might place you at greater risk of developing cancer. A colonoscopy is both a screening test and a medical procedure to remove any polyps if present.

How Should You Prepare for a Colonoscopy?

Your treating doctor may ask you to empty your colon a day before your colonoscopy is scheduled. Any residue might obstruct the field of view of the colonoscope. To empty the colon, you might be asked to do any of the following:

  • Eat a special diet: Your diet will be restricted to certain fluids on the day before the examination. You will not be allowed to drink any dairy products or have carbonated beverages. You might also be asked to avoid any liquids with red dye in it since it can be mistaken for blood during the procedure. Be sure to ask your doctor for the exact diet.
  • Take laxatives: Your doctor might recommend a laxative the night before and the morning of the procedure. The laxative can be either in liquid or tablet form.
  • Get an enema: An enema is an efficient way to empty out the lower part of the colon.
  • Adjust any medications: You must give your doctor a comprehensive list of all the medications you are taking. These might have to be adjusted and  you should inform your doctor at least a week prior to your procedure.

What Should You Expect During a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a complex medical procedure that involves many stages of preparation and recovery.

Before the Procedure

Before the colonoscopy, you will be started on IV fluids and will be connected to a heart monitor. If you are prescribed sedation, it is administered through the IV tube. The sedative is for you to relax and reduce any discomfort or pain during the colonoscopy. Patients usually experience mild cramping, bloating, or pressure, while most do not feel any pain.

During the Procedure

You will be in a hospital gown and wheeled into the procedure room. You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees drawn up. The colonoscope is inserted into the colon through the anus and air or carbon dioxide  will also be pumped in to inflate the colon.

The light and the camera are switched on and the images begin to transmit to the monitor. The colonoscope will move along the entire length of the colon. Your doctor can also insert other instruments to collect samples if required. The entire procedure might take anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes.

After the procedure

The sedation will take about an hour to wear off. You will require someone to drive you home. If you continue to feel any bloating, you should try walking to help you release any gas or air still trapped in your colon.

Do not be alarmed if you find some blood in your stool after a colonoscopy. This is normal and might last a few days. If you experience abdominal pain or develop a fever, then please consult with your doctor.

What Results Can You Expect from the Colonoscopy?

A negative result is when your doctor does not find any abnormalities during the colonoscopy. In such a case, your doctor will recommend that you get your next colonoscopy after ten years. However, if you are at risk for cancer, you will be asked to repeat the procedure in five years. In case the doctor was unable to get a clear picture of your colon due to any obstruction, then you will need to repeat the process within a year.

A positive result is when your doctor finds any abnormalities or polyps in your colon. If you have polyps, then it would have been removed and sent to a laboratory for further examination. Most polyps are not cancerous but can be pre-indications of cancer cell growth. You might require more rigorous screening depending on the size and number of polyps.

What are the Risks of Getting a Colonoscopy?

The risks involved in colonoscopy  are very minimal. Even so, you might experience an adverse reaction to the sedative used or experience bleeding if a polyp is extracted. In very rare cases, the wall of the colon can be perforated.

Do talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have with the procedure and make sure you understand all the risks involved.

How is virtual colonoscopy different from colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy provides certain benefits over the traditional colonoscopy procedure. Here are the differences between both these procedures:

Virtual ColonoscopyColonoscopy
ProcedurePerformed using a CT scan (3D images) of the abdomen and pelvisPerformed using a tiny camera inserted into the colon through the rectum
Recommended frequency between tests5 years10 years
ProsLess invasiveMore thorough and comprehensive Lesser chances of developing complicationsEffective removal of polypsMinimal discomfort through medication
ConsRadiation exposureComplications can occur during procedure

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Is a colonoscopy painful?

A colonoscopy is performed under a mild sedative that prevents patients from feeling any pain. At most, you might experience bloating or cramps.

When should I get a colonoscopy?

People above the age of fifty are asked to get a colonoscopy every ten years. If you have a history of colon cancer, then you will need to get screened earlier and more regularly. You might also need the procedure if you have any symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort.

How many days will I need to take off from work?

The colonoscopy is completed within a day, and you will need only a single day off. However, you might need extra time off if you continue to feel the effects of the sedation or develop a fever.

How long will it take to recover from a colonoscopy?

The normal recovery time for any colonoscopy is around 1 day.

How do you poop after a colonoscopy?

To prepare for the procedure, patients are expected to completely empty their bowels. Hence, patients recovering from a colonoscopy procedure may not be required to poop for a couple of days. 

Is a colonoscopy a serious procedure?

Colonoscopy do not pose any major risks to the patients, and discomfort can be reduced through medication.

Verified By Dr Kishore V Alapati
MBBS, MD, FACS, FASCRS, FICS, Sr. Consultant Advanced Minimally Invasive & Colo-Rectal Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
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