What is a colonoscopy?
The colon is the last segment of the digestive track. It is approximately 5 feet long and functions in storing residual food wastes and absorbing water and other body fluids before being eliminated as stool. During a colonoscopy the physician is able to look at the entire length of the large bowel by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum and colon. It is used to look for lesions or abnormalities, such as polyps. These abnormalities can be removed or biopsied (removing a tissue sample) during the exam. It can also be used to evaluate unexplained causes of changes in bowel patterns, abdominal pain, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.
Do I need a colonoscopy?
Common indications for this exam include:
• Screening exam for persons over the age of 50
• Family history of colon cancer
• Previous colon polyps or colon cancer
• Unexplained abdominal pain
• Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
• Changes in bowel habits
• Iron deficiency anemia
• Significant, unexplained weight loss
How do I schedule a colonoscopy?
Scheduling is done through your physician’s office. They will provide you with the date and time of the procedure, as well what bowel preparation you will need to do prior to the exam.
How do I prepare for the exam?
Proper bowel preparation is needed in order for your doctor to fully view the colon. If the bowel is not completely clear of all dark, formed stool, it may not be possible to complete the exam. Continue with your regular medications up to the day of the exam with the exception of those your physician has instructed you to stop.
Your physician will prescribe a bowel preparation that you will need to do at home prior to coming in for your exam. Make sure these items are purchased/picked up at least 2 days before your test.
You should begin a low fiber diet 5 days before your exam. Try to avoid foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, canned or cooked fruits/vegetables with peels or skins, high fiber breads or cereals, wild rice, nuts, seeds, and popcorn.
What should I bring with me to the exam?
- A responsible driver!! You will be receiving sedation during the exam that can impair your judgment and reflexes for several hours. We ask that you do not conduct business, sign legal documents, or drive vehicles/equipment for 24 hours after the exam. If you do not have a driver you will be given the option to have the exam without sedation or to reschedule the test.
- A current list of prescription and over the counter medications. Be sure to include the dose and number of times a day each medication is taken. We will also want to know when you have taken your most recent dose. If you use an inhaler, bring it along.
Certain medications may need to be stopped temporarily prior to your procedure. If you are on blood thinners, have a heart murmur, have had a recent joint replacement, or stent placement, please make your healthcare provider aware of this before your exam. Patients on insulin should contact their primary care provider for diabetic management prior to their exam date.
- List of known medications, food and/or latex allergies.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.
- Leave as much jewelry and valuables at home as possible. Please do not wear fragrances to your exam.
- A photo ID, such as a driver’s license and all insurance cards. These items are needed regardless of whether you have registered in advance to insure proper billing of your exam!
Colonoscopy: day of procedure
Your arrival time should be given to you by you physician’s office. Once you arrive, you will need to register at the receptionist’s desk. From there, our nursing staff will bring you back to finish your admission. In the exam room you will lie on your left side down. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels will be monitored during the exam and recovery periods. You will be given medication to help you relax and minimize discomfort. The doctor will then insert a flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope) into your rectum and guide it through the colon. Air is used to dilate the colon walls to help with visualization. You may feel some bloating, pressure, or cramping as a result.
The doctor will be able to remove any abnormal growths, such as polyps, or take a tissue sample (biopsy) if warranted. The instruments needed for this pass through the scope already in place. Following the exam there is a recovery period during which there is continued monitoring of vital signs and discharge instructions are reviewed.
While a colonoscopy is a safe procedure, there are serious complications less than 1 percent of the time. Rarely, some people experience fever, blood in stools, severe abdominal pain or shortness of breath. If you are having any of these side effects, contact your physician immediately. You will be given written discharge instructions following your colonoscopy.
The exam itself takes approximately 20-30 minutes. Please plan on being in our department for two to three hours hours, from admission to discharge.