A colonoscopy is the examination of the large bowel. This is an outpatient procedure that is performed for various reasons, including checking for polyps, which can turn into cancerous tumors. Doctors will often order a colonoscopy when trying to find the source of a particular problem. A few of these problems are anemia, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, and a change in stool or bowel habits. While the previous health problems may be minor, a colonoscopy can also be used to diagnose and treat various diseases including colon cancer.
While the procedure itself does not take long to complete, the real work is done at home while you are preparing for it. In most cases, your doctor will require you to go on a liquid diet a day or two before the procedure. The purpose of this is to clean out your colon. While changing your diet will help you tremendously with cleansing your colon, you will still have to do more to insure it has been thoroughly cleaned before the procedure. To do this, you will be given 1 or 2 enemas. An enema is given by injecting liquid directly into the rectum.
When you discuss having a colonoscopy done with your doctor, be sure to tell him all special medical conditions you have. Even if they seem trivial and unrelated to the procedure, your doctor needs to be aware of them. Such conditions include lung conditions, allergies to any medications, pregnancy, diabetes, and heart conditions. You should also talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may be required to stop taking your medications for a short time before the procedure is performed or they may need to be adjusted slightly. In many cases, you will be able to continue taking your medication as directed, but it is always in your best interest to double-check with your doctor first.
The colonoscopy will only last 30-60 minutes. During this time you will be asked to lay on your left side while an experienced doctor uses the colonoscope to examine the colon lining for any abnormalities. The colonoscope is a flexible, long, tubular instrument that is only ½ inch in diameter. This instrument provides your doctor with images of your colon lining while the procedure is being done. It also has the ability to small amounts of tissue for a biopsy. The scope will be inserted through your rectum and will gently wind its way through your colon.
When the procedure is finished, you will be taken to a recovery room for observation, but should be allowed to leave within 30 minutes. You will need to have someone to drive you home because you will have sedative medication in your system, which inhibits you from driving for at least 8 hours following the procedure. Once you are home, you will be able to resume your normal diet and routine. However, if you notice abnormal rectal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, fever or chills, call your doctor immediately.