Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Colonoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure used to examine the inside of the colon. The colon is the large intestine that is present at the end of our digestive tract that helps eliminate the waste through the rectum and anus. The colonoscopy procedure is done by using a tool called the colonoscope. This very long and flexible tube (about 4 to 5 feet in length) is as thick as a human finger and has a fiberoptic camera with a light source at the tip.

What Happens During A Colonoscopy Procedure?

During a typical colonoscopy exam, the patient will be asked to undress and change into a hospital gown. They will need to lie on the exam table on their left side facing the television screen. A gastroenterologist will then insert the tip of the colonoscope into the patient’s anus and monitor the tissues by viewing the transmitted video from the camera on the television screen. Gradually this tip is moved up into the rectum and then the colon. As the colonoscope is flexible, it bends with the movement into the colon. It also expands the colon by blowing some air into it, so that the doctor can clearly visualize the colon and easily detect any signs of abnormality.

Why Would You Need To Undergo This Procedure?

Your healthcare provider may order a colonoscopy to evaluate the health of your colon if you present with clinical symptoms like rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, bowel disturbance etc. These symptoms are generally associated with chronic inflammatory bowel disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

This procedure may also be performed to look for any abnormalities in the intestine. It is most commonly used to detect early signs of colorectal cancer. It is also used to detect presence of polyps or tumors within the intestine as well as to locate the areas of internal bleeding and inflammation.

Patients who have a history of colon cancer or those with a family history of cancers of the digestive tract are advised to get periodic colonoscopies as they are at a greater risk for developing polyps or colon cancer. If any abnormal tissue growth is observed during colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist can collect a small specimen of the abnormal tissue and send it for biopsy. This facilitates early detection and treatment of the cancer.

How Long Does It Take To Do A Colonoscopy?

How Long Does It Take To Do A Colonoscopy?

Will the Colonoscopy Procedure Take Long To Perform?

The actual colonoscopy procedure does not take very long to complete. It is the preparation that leads up to the appointment to clear out the bowels that is more taxing and time consuming. Generally, the patients need to restrict solid food intake a few days before their appointment and increase their fluid intake. They also need to take oral laxatives along with enemas to clear out their bowels.

On the day of the procedure, the most patients are given intravenous tranquilizers to help them relax. The sedation is typically mild in nature to ensure the patient experiences least amount of discomfort, but is still alert enough to inform the attending physician if they experience any untoward pain or irritation.

Typically, it takes between 30 minutes to an hour to finish the procedure when performed by an experienced gastroenterologist. The duration varies between patients depending on the size and number of polyps that need to be removed.

Patients generally describe their experience as feeling a sensation of pressure when the colonoscope is moved around the corner of the intestine and when the physician pumps some air into the intestine to clearly visualize the internal tissues.

Patients can go home about 30 minutes after the procedure, after the side effects of the sedative wear off. Recovery time ranges from few hours to a few days depending on development of any complications.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 20, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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