What is a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an endoscopic procedure used to view the large intestine (colon and rectum) using an instrument called a colonoscope (a flexible tube with a small camera and lens attached at one end).

Indications for Colonoscopy

The procedure can detect inflamed tissue, ulcers, and abnormal growths. It is used to diagnose early signs of colorectal cancer, bowel disorders, abdominal pain, muscle spasms, inflamed tissue, ulcers, anal bleeding, and non-dietary weight loss.

Preparing for colonoscopy

Your physician may provide instructions to help you prepare for the colonoscopy procedure. The process is called bowel preparation.

Your gastrointestinal tract should be devoid of solid food; a strict liquid diet should be followed for 1 to 3 days before the procedure. You should not drink beverages containing red or purple dye. Liquids that can be taken before surgery include fruit juices, plain coffee, tea and water.

Certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or other blood thinning medications, iron- containing preparations should be stopped before the test. Iron medications produce a dark black stool, and this makes the view inside the bowel less clear.

A laxative or an enema may be required the night before colonoscopy. Laxatives loosen the stools and increase bowel movement. Laxatives are usually swallowed in pill form or as a powder dissolved in water.

Colonoscopy Procedure

Colonoscopy is performed under general anaesthesia. The colonoscope is inserted into the rectum which gently moves up through the colon until it reaches the caecum (junction of small and large intestine). Colonoscopy provides an instant diagnosis of many conditions of the colon and is more sensitive than X-rays. The colonoscope is then withdrawn very slowly as the camera shows pictures of the colon and rectum on a large screen. Polyps or growths can also be removed by colonoscopy which can be sent later for detection of cancer.

Recovery After Colonoscopy

After the procedure, you will still require someone to drive you home. A normal diet with increased fluid intake is usually recommended. If a polyp has been removed, you may be placed on a special diet. You may experience a sensation of bloating which can be relieved by walking. It is normal to pass a small quantity of blood with the first bowel movement after the procedure. Consult your doctor if you experience abdominal pain, high fever or increased blood in the stools.

Risks and Complications Associated with Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is usually a safe procedure but as with any procedure, certain complications can occur. These include:

  • Bleeding after a biopsy or polyp removal
  • Perforation in the intestinal wall
  • Infection