Colonoscopy is a procedure that is performed in order to look inside the lower part of the digestive system, more precisely the large intestine/ colon and few centimeters from the last part of the small bowel.
The colonoscope, which is a flexible telescope with a camera on the tip, is introduced through the anus into the colon.
The patient is placed on a special diet two days prior to the procedure and is instructed to take a solution in order to prepare the colon for the procedure. The preparation induces diarrhea and empties the colon from the stools so that the operator obtains a clear view. An intravenous medication is administered for sedation. The sedation is either conscious or deep. During the procedure, air is introduced into the colon to distend it and facilitate the exam. This will cause bloating and might induce abdominal cramps. The procedure takes around 30 minutes. The colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure and the patient will go home after recovery from the sedation.
The indications include abdominal pain, blood in the stools (microscopic or macroscopic), change in the bowel habits, long lasting diarrhea, follow up on an inflammatory bowel disease, personal or family history of colonic polyps or cancer.
The physician performing the procedure may take biopsies, small pieces from the lining of the digestive system, to send for pathological analysis depending on the findings. The biopsies are not painful. He might also perform some therapeutic interventions like removal of a lesion/ polyp, control of a bleeding, amongst others.
Most of the colonoscopies are done without any problems. The patient may experience at the end of the procedure abdominal cramps and distention secondary to the air that was introduced. Occasionally, complications might occur like bleeding, infection or perforation which is a tear through the lining of the intestine that might require surgery for repair. They usually occur within 48 hours after the procedure and are managed accordingly.