What is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedural examination of the inner walls of the rectum and colon (the large intestine). The test is performed through a flexible tube (about the width of a finger) called a colonoscope. A colonoscopy allows a gastroenterologist to establish the presence of polyps, cancer, diverticulitis, colitis, and other colonic conditions.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among adults and ranks as the second highest cause of cancer death in the U.S. It is responsible for roughly 50,000 deaths and impacts more than 140,000 Americans annually. The disease can strike people of any age, but those in the highest risk category are adults over 50-years old. More than 90% of patients with colorectal cancer are over the age of 40.

Gastrointestinal (GI) specialists strongly recommend that anyone over 50 undergo a colonoscopy because if discovered early, more than 90% of patients will survive. However, the American Cancer Society released a guideline update on May 30, 2018, recommending that screening for average-risk adults begin at age 45. This has presented a gray area for patients because the current USPSTF recommendation to start colorectal cancer screening at age 50 has set a minimum threshold for insurers. Therefore, at least in the short term, many patients under 50 may experience challenges with insurance coverage for their screening tests including out‐of‐pocket costs.

Colonoscopy Preparation

Before undergoing a colonoscopy, patients will need to cleanse and thoroughly empty their bowel. Residual stool in the colon can mask polyps and the early signs of cancer, and patients may be required to repeat the procedure. To thoroughly flush the intestines, patients typically drink a laxative solution. Diligently following your doctor’s instructions is critical for the exam to be effective.

The test is usually done in an outpatient setting. A sedative will be given through an IV so that you will be asleep throughout the procedure and will not experience any discomfort.

What Happens During a Colonoscopy?

Our full-service outpatient surgery center offers ready access to colorectal and endoscopic procedures, including colonoscopy.

During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will insert a colonoscope into your rectum and up through the large intestine. The flexible, lighted device will allow your physician to view the full lining of the colon and to identify and remove any polyps. If needed, tissue samples can be obtained for analysis and biopsy.

A colonoscopy can often facilitate the effective treatment of colorectal issues and allow the patient to avoid major surgery.

During the procedure you will be:

  • Asked to wear a hospital gown
  • Given sedation and pain relief medicine intravenously
  • Lying on your left side with your knees bent up toward the chest

A colonoscopy takes twenty to thirty minutes. However, additional time may be required for some patients, to carefully remove or sample, polyps or lesions found during the examination.

Recovering After a Colonoscopy

After the procedure, you’ll be monitored carefully by a nurse, until you are awake and comfortable, and your doctor feels you are ready to be discharged home with a responsible adult.

For your safety, you’ll be asked to find someone you trust to drive you home after the procedure. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to leave the facility alone, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle.

There is a minimal risk of complication in most patients, from the procedure. Examples of complications known to be rarely associated include:

  • Bleeding
  • Cramping or gas pain
  • Damage to the intestinal wall or nearby structures
  • Infections
  • Adverse reactions to the sedative or the laxative preparation

Under normal circumstances, you should experience no pain, and be comfortable as the sedation quickly wears off. Regardless of how great you feel after a sedated procedure, you CAN NOT drive on the day of your procedure.

If you have any questions or would like more information about colonoscopy or colorectal cancer, please contact us or call (407) 830-8661.

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