Colonoscopy Procedure

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure used to detect and examine abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

Why is a colonoscopy performed?

A colonoscopy may be performed to discover possible causes of digestive symptoms including abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, constipation, diarrhea, or other intestinal issues. It may also be done to screen for colon cancer, especially for patients over the age of 50.

How is a colonoscopy performed?

Your doctor will inform you how to best prepare for a colonoscopy. You may be given a sedative and/or pain medication to help with any discomfort. After laying on your side and drawing your knees to your chest , a tube is inserted into the rectum. The tube is topped with a light, video camera, and is long enough to reach the entire colon. Air will inflate the colon, to allow better view and movement. The doctor can use the tube to insert tools which allow for removal of tissue samples (biopsies), polyps, or abnormal tissue. The procedure normally takes 20 minutes to one hour.

What is done with the sample from a colonoscopy?

The tissue sample is sent to the laboratory for analysis. It is often put in a fixative solution, which allows it to remain in its natural condition. The tissue is thinly sliced, put on to glass slides, stained, and examined by a pathologist using a microscope. The results of examination may confirm or rule out a diagnosis, determine the stage of a disease, or show if treatment is working.

Are there any risks of a colonoscopy?

There is a risk for complications with a colonoscopy including reaction to the sedative, bleeding from tissue sample site, or a tear in the colon or rectum. Complications are rare, discuss any risks with your doctor prior to the procedure.