- A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a medical doctor looks into the lengths of the large intestines. It is an important medical tool that allows doctors to discover and treat potentially harmful medical conditions. Using colonoscopies, your doctor can discover abnormalities such as tumors, polyps and ulcers.
- Before a colonoscopy can be done, a colon prep regimen must be done to rid the intestines of fecal matter or other material that make the procedure more difficult. Colon prep loosens any fecal matter from the walls of the intestine, and may cause issues such as a frequent need to use the bathroom and diarrhea. Colon prep may take as little as 24 hours, or as many as 2 days.
- A colonoscopy is done using equipment called a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a special rubber tube with a mounted camera and light on the end. The tube itself is about the width of the average index finger. The camera broadcasts and records the procedure and allows the doctor to view any abnormalities.
- During a colonoscopy, the colonoscope is carefully inserted into the anus using a lubricant. Though no anesthetic is needed, anti-anxiety medications are often given before the procedure to help the patient relax. In some cases, medications might be given to allow the patient to sleep through the procedure. The colonoscope is usually inserted for between 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether any abnormalities are discovered. After that, the tube is gently withdrawn.
- During the colonoscopy, puffs of air might be shot through anus to keep the viewing area in the colon open. The natural reflex of the body is to clamp down on the device. The air helps keep everything open to better see abnormalities.
- If the doctor sees anything abnormal, he might want to perform a biopsy. In the case of a small polyp, which can become cancerous, the doctor will most likely remove it during the same visit. If tumors or large polyps are found, a biopsy will confirm a diagnosis, after which the doctor will discuss future treatment options.