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A colonoscopy is an endoscopic technique that is used for visual examination of the colon and rectum. It helps doctors identify abnormalities in the bowel and rectum, including evaluating symptoms of colorectal cancer. More than 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the United States each year. The doctor inserts a colonoscope, a small and pliable tube with an attached camera, through the rectum of the patient, and into the colon during the examination. The doctor may also take a tissue sample (biopsy) or remove/detach tissue during the procedure.

Colonoscopy procedure

A colonoscopy procedure usually takes 20-30 minutes. However, patients should set aside time for the preparation of the procedure and recovery. Prior to the procedure, the patient will get a sedative. The patient will normally wear a hospital gown and lie on their left side on a patient examination table during the procedure. Then, the doctor will insert the colonoscope into the rectum.

After the procedure

Once the doctor has finished the examination, the patient will stay in a special recovery room until the sedative effect ends.It is necessary to take the rest of the day off after the Colonoscopy procedure. It is unhealthy to drive or work after a colonoscopy.

  • Typically, a patient can start eating and drinking as soon as the procedure is concluded. They may resume their normal lifestyle the day after the procedure.
  • If the doctor performs a biopsy, they will inform you when the results will be available and whether any extra testing is necessary. If the doctor removes abnormal tissue, they will prescribe any temporary dietary changes that may be necessary.
  • Some mild discomfort, such as gas, bloating, or very mild cramping, is normal after a colonoscopy. These symptoms should go away within 24 hours. Passing gas or walking around may aid reduce discomfort.
  • Small amounts of blood in the first bowel movement after the procedure are also expected by the doctors. However, it is necessary to consult a doctor if the bleeding in bowel movement continues or the stool contains large amounts of blood or blood clots.

Colonoscopy preparation

Cleansing the bowel is acrucial and necessary step for a high-quality colonoscopy. Your doctor will give specific instructions on how to do this.

They may recommend:

  • Dietary changes: The day before the Colonoscopy procedure, it is essential to take a clear liquid diet. You will not be able to eat solid food or dairy products.
  • Clear liquids only: The doctor will prescribe the patient to drink only water, broth, and tea, and coffee without milk the day before the procedure of colonoscopy.
  • Laxatives: It is necessary to take laxatives the day before Colonoscopy. Usually, a patient may also have to take them on the morning of the colonoscopy as well.

Patients who are on medications or supplements should discuss these with their doctor. The doctor may advise them to stop taking certain medications for some time or to change the dose.

It is better to make the doctor aware of medications that:

  • thin the blood (such as aspirin or warfarin)
  • are for diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or heart problems
  • contain iron

When is a colonoscopy necessary?

A colonoscopy allows the doctor to investigate lower gastrointestinal symptoms of patients, such as:

  • bleeding from the rectum
  • chronic constipation
  • chronic diarrhea
  • abdominal  pain

The Gastrointestinal community also considers colonoscopy the gold-standard for screening and diagnosis for colorectal cancer.

A colonoscopy can diagnose early-stage colorectal cancer before symptoms of cancer develop. It also allows doctors to remove polyps, which are precursors to cancer. Early detection can enhance treatment outcomes.

A doctor may recommend a colonoscopy for those who:

  • have a first degree relative with a history of colon polyps or colon cancer
  • are at higher risk because of their personal medical history
  • are aged 45 or older, even if no other risk factors are present

Colonoscopy risks

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy describes possible complications that may occur in approximately 2.8 out of every 1,000 procedures (0.28%) in people at average risk.

The risks linked with a colonoscopy, which may increase if a biopsy or abnormal tissue removal occurs, including bleeding and tears in the lining of the colon or rectum (perforation).

Sedation also carries risks, including:

  • a decrease in respiratory rate of the patient
  • changes in heart rate of the patient
  • patient may experience nausea and vomiting

Is it painful?

A colonoscopy is not usually painful because patients have the procedure under sedation, making them very sleepy, forgetful, and relaxed. However, due to the expected side effects of sedation, a person should not drive home, as they would not be alertenough to drive safely.

After the Colonoscopy, patients may suffer mild discomfort for up to 24 hours. After that, they may experience mildabdominal cramping, gas pains, and bloating.

In addition to moderate discomfort, bleeding may occur if the doctor takes a biopsy or removes abnormal tissue.

At what age do people have a colonoscopy?

Patients of any age can undergo a colonoscopy. Adult’s with age ranging from45–85 undergo colorectal cancer screening, such as a colonoscopy, at least once every 10 years.