The colonoscopy procedure is a real-time visual examination of the lining of the colon, rectum and at times, the small bowel (known as the terminal ileum). The procedure is performed by board-certified gastroenterologists (stomach and liver specialists) or by their trainees (also known as Fellows) who work under their direct supervision.
The instrument used for this procedure is called the colonoscope, a thin but long flexible tube that carries a high definition wide-angle camera, a bright light source and working channels at its tip. The colonoscope allows the physician not only to take a look but also obtain tissue samples known as biopsies. Biopsies are then examined by a pathologist.
The procedure is pain free as you will receive sedatives/pain medications to ensure your comfort. The instrument is inserted through the anal canal into the rectum and on to the colon. Colonoscopy can also be through a stoma, an artificial opening of colon to the skin.
Colonoscopy helps your gastroenterologist evaluate and treat multiple gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, diarrhea to name a few. An important function of colonoscopy is to look for and remove colon polyps that can potentially become colon cancer. It can be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis.
In preparation of the procedure, your physician may ask you to stop certain medications before your procedure. Otherwise, detailed preparation instructions for the procedure will be provided to you by one of our staff members. You will need to be on clear liquid diet the entire day before the procedure and drink a cleansing solution.
Colonoscopy is usually safe. The risks associated with this procedure are commonly related to sedation such as transient respiratory depression (slowness of breathing) and minor change in vital signs (blood pressure and heart rate). Infection is extremely uncommon (1-5 per 10 million); bleeding 1-6 per 1,000; perforation (tear) risk is 5-7 per 10,000; and risk of death is 7 per 100,000 (to give a perspective, the risk of being randomly shot at is 6 in 100,000). These risks are increased with interventions such as biopsies, polypectomy (polyp removal), and others.
When you wake up from sedation you will be monitored for any adverse events for a period up to one hour. You may feel a little bloated from the air that is introduced through the instrument, but this will wear off in a short period of time. You will be permitted to carry on any normal activity for the remainder of the day except for driving a motorized vehicle so you will need an adult driver to pick you up that day.