What is a Colonoscopy Procedure?
If you are wondering, what a colonoscopy procedure is, it is important to understand the location, structure and function of the colon. The colon is the lower most part of the gastrointestinal tract which receives food, absorbs the nutrients, and disposes off the waste. The anus is the opening in the body where the gastrointestinal tract ends and exits the body. It is through the anus that feces are expelled. The colon is attached to the anus through the rectum.
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, flexible camera is used to detect abnormalities or disease in the lower intestine or colon. During a colonoscopy procedure, the doctor may also take tissue samples for biopsy and also remove abnormal tissue such as polyps.
Why Do You Need To Do a Colonoscopy Procedure?
A colonoscopy procedure is a screening test done to detect colon cancer and other problems. It is often done only if advised by the physician. The main reason why you need to do a colonoscopy procedure is to detect abnormalities in the colon and assess the risk of cancer.
Here are some of the causes why you need to do a colonoscopy procedure,
- To find the cause of unexplained bowel habit changes
- To detect signs of cancer and other illnesses
- To evaluate symptoms of bleeding and pain in the abdominal region
- To evaluate causes of chronic constipation, diarrhea or weight loss.
People aged more than 50 years face an average risk of colon cancer. These individuals should get a colonoscopy done once in every 10 years. People, who are at an increased risk, may require more frequent procedures. Researchers have estimated that about 76% to 90% of colon cancer cases can be prevented through colonoscopy screening.
What are the Complications of Colonoscopy Procedure?
Colonoscopy is a routine procedure and so there are typically few lasting effects of this test. In most cases, the benefits of detecting problems and initiating treatment greatly outweigh the risks of complications from a colonoscopy procedure. However, few rare complications of this test are a tear in the colon or rectal wall, reaction to the sedative, and bleeding from a biopsy site if biopsy was performed. By knowing what a colonoscopy procedure is & its benefits, it surely stands out as a necessary procedure, when advised to do so.
What are the Preparations for a Colonoscopy Procedure?
After getting an idea of what a colonoscopy procedure is and why you need to do it, you may want to know about the preparations for it. Before the colonoscopy, the doctor gives the patient instructions for “bowel prep.” Patients are instructed to have a clear liquid diet for 24 to 72 hours prior to the colonoscopy procedure. The typical bowel prep diet consists of gelatin, plain tea or coffee, broth or bouillon, sports drinks and pulp free juice. Patients are advised not to have any drinks containing purple or red dye as these can discolor the colon.
They should inform the doctor about the medications which they are taking, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Patients would need to stop taking the medicines if they are likely to affect the colonoscopy. Some drugs which affect this test are iron-containing vitamins supplements, blood thinners, and certain diabetes medications. The patients may also need to take a laxative on the night before the test. This is done in order to flush and clear the colon. Use of enema is generally advised for the purpose.
How is a Colonoscopy Procedure Performed?
Patients need to change into the hospital’s gown just before the colonoscopy and also take a sedative, generally in capsule form. During the colonoscopy procedure, the patient is made to lie on their side on a padded examination table. To get a better angle of the colon, the doctor would ask the patient to position their knees near their chest. As the sedated patient lies on their side, the doctor would guide a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope into their anus. The colonoscope would be gradually and gently moved up through the rectum and into the colon. A camera set on the end of the colonoscope would transmit pictures to a monitor which the doctor would be watching.
Once the scope is appropriately positioned, the doctor would then inflate the colon with carbon dioxide gas, to get an enhanced view. During the process, the doctor may remove polyps or a tissue sample for biopsy. The patient would be awake throughout the colonoscopy procedure which generally takes 40 to 60 minutes.
Things to Remember after a Colonoscopy Procedure
Once the colonoscopy procedure is over, the patient should wait for nearly an hour for allowing the sedative to wear off. It is advisable that the patient avoids driving for the next 24 hours, until the effects of the sedative fade off completely. It is advisable to arrange for a ride home after the colonoscopy. The gas which was placed into the colon during the procedure often causes bloating and gastric problem in the patient. This gas takes some time to exit the body, but if this continues to happen for days then it could indicate a problem and the patient should contact their doctor. Presence of a bit of blood in the stool post colonoscopy procedure is also normal. But one should contact their doctor if they keep on passing bloody stools or blood clots for a long time, or experience abdominal pain and have fever over 100°F. If the doctor removes tissue or a polyp during a biopsy, they would send it to a laboratory for testing and the result is likely to be available within a few days. Based on the results, diagnosis is confirmed and treatment can be planned.
Now that you know what a colonoscopy procedure is and why you need to do it, you can take an informed decision and protect your health, as advised.
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