Colonoscopy is the visual examination of the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The results obtained from colonoscopy can be useful in preventing, diagnosing and treating a variety of gastrointestinal diseases.
How do I prepare for colonoscopy?
The colon must be thoroughly cleansed in order for the exam to be accurate and complete. Your physician will provide you with information about cleansing instructions. Tell him/her if you have any medical or cardiac conditions or allergies to any medications. Certain medications (ie: Coumadin, aspirin, anti-inflammatory medications and vitamin E) can increase the likelihood of bleeding during/after colonoscopy and often need to be discontinued for one week prior to the examination.
Please provide your doctor with a complete medication list and contact the office 2 weeks prior to your procedure if you have questions regarding the use of these medications.
Transportation arrangements must be made (family member or friend) to drive you home after the procedure, and you should not drive a car for at least twelve hours after the administration of sedation.
What happens during colonoscopy?
Prior to the procedure, an intravenous catheter (IV) will be placed in a vein in your arm. Females of childbearing age may be asked to undergo a pregnancy test. Medicine (sedation) will be injected to help you feel relaxed and sleepy. While lying on your left side, the flexible colonoscopy will be inserted into the rectum, and guided through your colon to visualize the lining of the large intestine. The examination usually takes between 15-60 minutes. If an abnormal growth (polyp) or tissue is detected, it may be removed or biopsied. Polyp removal often involves the use of electrical heat (electrocautery).
Is it safe?
Colonoscopy is a very well tolerated and safe examination. Potential, but uncommon complications include (but are not limited to) bleeding, bowel perforation, infection and those related to anesthesia.
What can I expect after the examination?
Your doctor will discuss the findings with you after your examination. It is recommended that a family member or close friend be present during this discussion. If biopsy or polyp specimens have been sent to the pathologist, please contact the office 10 days after your examination and the doctor will discuss the results with you.
- Bleeding: Bleeding may occur immediately after taking a biopsy or after removal of a polyp. Although rare, the risk of bleeding may still be present up to 14 days after polypectomy. A small amount of blood on the stool is not uncommon after colonoscopy, but the passage of an entirely bloody bowel movement should be reported immediately.
- Pain: Some patients may experience discomfort or bloating due to the air that was introduced into the colon during colonoscopy, but this usually subsides within a few hours. If sharp or persistent pain develops, please contact our office.
- Medications: You may be asked to avoid certain medications if specimens are obtained. These typically include aspirin-containing medications, Coumadin, Plavix, and any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin, Aleve, etc.) Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not promote bleeding, and can therefore be used. Most other prescribed medications may be resumed immediately after the procedure. It is necessary for you to have arranged transportation home, as you should not drive a car for 12 hours after the administration of anesthesia.
- Food: Your bowel preparation has emptied your gastrointestinal tract. We suggest that you avoid heavy meals today. If your stomach does not “feel right”, the next meal should be light, such as eggs, cereal, toast. DO NOT drink alcohol for the next twelve hours. You may resume a regular diet the day after the procedure. You may not have bowel activity for 2-3 days after the procedure.
- Activities: The sedation you received will make you less alert than usual. DO NOT make any major decisions, drive a car or operate machinery for at least twelve hours. Strenuous exercise should not be performed for approximately 24 hours, or longer if advised by your physician.