A colonoscopy is a semi-invasive procedure performed under general anesthesia or sedation, in which a physician visually examines a patient's colon and, if necessary, removes cells for biopsy. A physician may order a colonoscopy if a patient is experiencing gastrointestinal problems or symptoms. Additionally, many physicians recommend an annual colonoscopy for patients over 50 as a screening for colorectal cancer.
Typically, a gastroenterologist, or a physician who specializes in the gastrointestinal system, performs a colonoscopy. The procedure itself involves a special scope, which is run through the rectum and into the colon, or large intestine. The images picked up by the scope are transmitted to a screen, allowing the physician to detect any abnormalities indicating a disease or disorder. Common problems detected by colonoscopy include irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, or ulcerative colitis.
A colonoscopy is performed in a clinical setting on an outpatient basis. The patient must prepare for a colonoscopy by following a specific set of directions provided by their physician in advance. Preparation for a colonoscopy involves cleaning out the intestines in order to optimize viewing. Most patients are advised to follow a clear liquid diet for 24 hours prior to their scheduled procedure and required to take a form of laxative in scheduled doses. Physicians strongly emphasize following preparation instructions carefully, because failure to do so can cause results to be inaccurate or the entire procedure to be unsuccessful.
When a patient arrives for a colonoscopy, he or she is provided with a hospital gown and given an IV lead. The IV lead will be used for either general anesthesia or twilight sedation. Different physicians use different forms of anesthesia, but both are effective for relieving apprehension and preventing pain or discomfort during the procedure.
The entire procedure from start to finish typically takes only a couple of hours. Even though a colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure, the patient will need transportation home afterwards because of the anesthesia. Post-procedure care will be provided by the facility and most people return to their normal diet within twelve hours following a colonoscopy. The majority of patients do not report any severe complications after a colonoscopy, but if you experience problems you should consult your doctor immediately.