Colonoscopy is the direct examination of the large intestine (colon) using a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and optics. Tissue samples may also be taken from inside the body. The tube is inserted through the anus (bottom). It is used to check for pre-cancerous polyps, tumors, inflammatory and ulcerative bowel disease or to locate the site of bleeding in the colon.
You will be given a special liquid diet or laxatives the day before the exam. No solids foods (jello is OK) should be consumed the day before the exam and nothing after midnight. Your doctor may also wish you to discontinue aspirin or blood thinners for several days before the exam if he or she believes a biopsy might be required.
You will be given conscious sedation with a medication like Versed and Fentanyl. This is not a general anesthetic, but it will relax you and prevent any memory of the procedure.
The test is usually done in a hospital or outpatient center.
As the lubricated colonoscope (the thin, flexible tube with a light and optics) is inserted into the anus, the intestine is inflated with air. This causes the intestine to expand so that your physician can see all areas.
Polyps can be easily snared for removal and biopsies (tissue samples for study) taken if needed.
There is a very small risk of bowel perforation (nicking or tearing the bowel wall).
If bleeding, fever, nausea, dark stool or abdominal pain develop, report this to your physician for further evaluation.
There is also a risk of transmitting infection with a colonoscope, although this risk is minimal with modern sterilization techniques.
After the procedure, the air that was inflated during the test may cause some discomfort until it is expelled as gas.