What is a Colonoscopy?


General information: A colonoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that visually examines the entire colon. The preparation is with an oral solution that removes waste from the colon. The inside of the colon is then examined for any abnormalities that may exist.

Indications: A colonoscopy is indicated for patients with inflammatory bowel disease, GI hemorrhage, polyp removal, screening for colon cancer, and evaluation of abnormal x-rays of the GI tract.

Other Methods of Evaluation : An alternative exam to assess the colon is the barium enema. CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis are useful but do not always provide sufficient information about the colon itself. CT scans are not good tests for looking at tubular structures such as the colon. They are, however, excellent tests for looking at structures surrounding the colon and intestines.

Preparation for the Procedure: An oral laxative solution is given a day before the procedure. This will cleanse the waste from the colon. It is important that the preparation be followed completely. This procedure examines the inside of the colon, thus if feces are retained or the preparation is inadequate, areas of the colon that may be of importance to your health may be missed or misinterpreted. Usually, the preparations taken for these are excellent. If you have specific difficulties with laxatives or the preparations, please inform your physician beforehand so that alternatives can be addressed.

Specific instructions regarding the preparation will be given to you when making your appointment.

Risks of the Procedure: A colonoscopy is a safe and highly effective procedure, but carries the following risks:

  1. Bleeding: Bleeding can occur up to ten days after the procedure. The chance of bleeding will increase depending upon the number, location, and size of polyps (if any) which are removed. Some patients have bleeding from hemorrhoids after the procedure.
  2. Allergic Reaction to a Medication: An allergic reaction to a medication can occur. This is usually identified early, since blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and general clinical conditions are monitored during the entire procedure.
  3. Perforation of the Colon: Perforation of the colon occurs when a hole is put through the colon. This can be associated with removal of polyps or simply passing the endoscope through the colon. This complication will usually result in a patient being treated in the operating room.

When all patients and the above risks are considered, the chance that one of the above complications will occur is about 1 in 1,000 cases. Overall, a colonoscopy is a well tolerated procedure that has many benefits and few complications when done for appropriate reasons by an experienced gastroenterologist.

The Procedure: This procedure takes approximately 30 minutes to perform, however, the procedure may take shorter or longer depending upon the interventions that may be required for each individual patient. We will take whatever time is necessary to complete the study. During the procedure, a fiber optic endoscope will be inserted into the anus. The scope will then be advanced through the inside of the colon to the cecum (last part of the colon). Inspection, removal of polyps, etc. usually occur during the withdrawal of the endoscope.

Longmont, CO Gastroenterology Colorado Center for Digestive Disorders 205 South Main Street Longmont, CO 80501 (303) 776-6115