A colonoscopy is Gold Standard screening and diagnostic procedure that uses a thin, flexible fiber-optic tube to examine parts of the colon or rectum. This procedure is performed while patients are comfortably sedated by anesthesia provider. This procedure may be performed in conjunction with biopsies or endoscopic resections. Colonoscopies are recommended for all average risk patients over the age of 45 or sooner for individuals with a family history of colon or rectal cancer. A colonoscopy may also be administered if a patient is experiencing changes in his or her bowel habits or is experiencing unexplained abdominal issues.

Benefits of a Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a routine examination that provides a highly accurate representation of the rectum or colon. There are many benefits of a colonoscopy, some of which include diagnosing unexplained abdominal symptoms such as pain, changes in bowel movements, and blood in stool; as well as identifying polyps, tumors, or inflammatory bowel disease (colitis). A colonoscopy is a safe, efficient procedure that often eliminates the need for invasive abdominal surgery (i.e. removing polyps that could lead to colon cancer).

Risks of a Colonoscopy

The risk of complication during a colonoscopy is rare, occurring in less than 1% of patient procedures, according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. Nevertheless, complications may arise during this procedure in the form of bleeding, an intestinal tear, or health problems associated with the anesthesia. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 4-5%. Therefore benefits outweigh its risk for most patients. Schedule an appointment with your Colorectal Surgeon to discuss further and make sure it is the right choice for you.

How is a Colonoscopy Performed?

Before a colonoscopy can be performed, patients must first clear their colon of any debris or residue. Doing so will ensure a clear view of the colon during the examination. To empty the colon, a physician may ask the patient to implement certain diet restrictions, take a laxative, use an over-the-counter enema kit, or adjust medications temporarily.

During the examination, patients typically receive an intravenous sedation by anesthesia specialist who monitors the patient throughout the procedure.  After the anesthesia has been administered, a colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and advanced into the colon. A biopsy or the removal of a polyp may be performed at this time, if necessary. The colonoscope is equipped with a small video camera. This allows the physician to take images of the colon during the examination and inspect them at a later time. 

Patients usually should not experience any gas pain or any other discomfort after colonoscopy. Usually they are allowed to resume most medications and diet soon after completion of the procedure.