1304 Somerville Rd.
Decatur, AL 35601
© 2011. Riverside Gastroenterology
1304 Somerville Rd., Decatur, AL 35601
A colonoscopy is a procedure that enables the physician to perform a careful, thorough examination of the large intestine. A thin flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the entire five to six foot length of colon. The examination can detect an abnormality present within the inner lining of the colon, such as a tumor or polyp, or an area of inflammation or infection.
Screening for colon cancer and rectal cancer is an important function of a colonoscopy. Colorectal cancer usually develops from a polyp. A polyp is a growth inside your colon. The detection and removal of colon polyps will reduce the chances of an individual developing colorectal cancer by 87-93%. In order to achieve this level of success in cancer prevention, a colonoscopy should be performed in healthy individuals before the symptoms of colon cancer are present.
A colonoscopy is also recommended for a number of other reasons. Rectal bleeding, iron-deficiency anemia, a recent change of bowel habits, abdominal pain, or persistent diarrhea are several of the more common symptoms requiring a colonoscopy. Individuals with an extended history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, a personal history of colon polyps or cancer, or a family history of either polyps or cancer of the colon require periodic examination of the colon.
The colon and rectum are the two main parts of the large intestine. Although the colon is only one part of the large intestine, because most of the large intestine consists of colon, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Digestive waste enters the colon from the small intestine as a semisolid. As waste moves toward the anus, the colon removes moisture and forms stool. The rectum is about 6 inches long and connects the colon to the anus. Stool leaves the body through the anus. Muscles and nerves in the rectum and anus control bowel movements.
The doctor usually provides written instructions about how to prepare for colonoscopy. The process is called a colon prep. Generally, all solids must be emptied from the gastrointestinal tract by following a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure. Patients should not drink beverages containing red or purple dye. Acceptable liquids include
• Fat-free bouillon or broth
• Strained fruit juice
• Plain coffee
• Plain tea
• Sports drinks, such as Gatorade
• Gelatin (no red jello)
A laxative is medicine that loosens stool and increases bowel movements. You will be told what laxative you need to take in order to prepare for your Colonoscopy. Patients should inform the doctor of all medical conditions and any medications, vitamins, or supplements taken regularly, including
• Arthritis medications
• Blood thinners
• Diabetes medications
• Vitamins that contain iron
Driving is not permitted for 12 hours after colonoscopy to allow the sedative time to wear off. Before the appointment, patients should make plans for someone to stay with them and drive them home.
During Colonoscopy, patients lie on their left side on an examination table. The patient is given conscious sedation. It will feel like you are under general anesthesia because you will not be aware of what’s going on and you will not feel any pain. The doctor and medical staff will monitor your vital signs and keep you comfortable.
The doctor will insert a long, flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope, or scope, into the anus and slowly guide it through the rectum and into the colon. The scope inflates the large intestine with carbon dioxide gas to give the doctor a better view. A small camera mounted on the scope transmits a video image from inside the large intestine to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the intestinal lining. Once the scope has reached the opening to the small intestine, it is slowly withdrawn and the lining of the large intestine is carefully examined again.
Dr. Short will remove any polyps he finds during your Colonoscopy. Any tissue or polyp that is removed from the colon is sent to a lab where it is checked by a pathologist. This is called a biopsy. Your biopsy is then checked to see if there are any cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. It is important to note that most polyps that are found are not cancerous. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer. The doctor can also take samples from abnormal-looking tissues during colonoscopy.
The doctor removes polyps and takes a biopsy using tiny tools passed through the scope. If bleeding occurs, the doctor can usually stop it with an electrical probe or special medications passed through the scope. Tissue removal and the treatments to stop bleeding are usually painless.
The colonoscopy itself usually takes 15-20 minutes. Cramping or bloating may occur during the first hour after the procedure. Your doctor will talk with you and tell you how the colonoscopy went and if any biopsies were taken. Even if you seem fully awake, you may not remember talking with the doctor. That is why it is important that the person who brought you in for your procedure is someone that can be present when the doctor is talking with you. They can later share with you what was said, in case you don’t remember. If any biopsies were taken, you will probably have to see Dr. Short at the office for a follow up visit. He will then discuss the results with you and tell you any recommendations that need to be followed.
After your colonoscopy, if you experience any of the following symptoms, please call Dr. Short immediately:
• Severe abdominal pain
• Bloody bowel movements
Routine Colonoscopy to look for early signs of cancer should begin at age 50 for most people. However, if there is a history of colon cancer or polyps in your family, you need to have your first colonoscopy by age 40. Also, if you have experienced a change in bowel movements, have iron deficiency anemia, blood in your stools, or have any other troubling symptoms you may be scheduled for a colonoscopy. Some chronic conditions may require that colonoscopies be performed on a regular basis.
Probably, but how soon depends on what Dr. Short finds. If you have a perfectly normal colon and no polyps were found, then you will not need to have another colonoscopy for ten years. If one or more polyps were removed, Dr. Short will determine when you need to have your next colonoscopy. This will depend on the results of the biopsies that were taken.