The term “colonoscopy” means looking inside the colon. It is a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist, a well-trained subspecialist.
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that examines the large bowel. The colonoscope is a device that consists of a long, firm and flexible plastic tube with a tiny digital camera and light at one end. The gastroenterologist carefully guides this instrument in various directions to look inside the colon. The picture from the camera appears on a monitor to provide a clear, magnified view of the colon lining.
Colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to evaluate problems such as blood loss, pain, and changes in bowel habits such as chronic diarrhoea or abnormalities that may have first been detected by other tests. It can also identify and treat active bleeding from the bowel.
Colonoscopy is more precise than an X-ray. This procedure also allows other instruments to be passed through the colonoscope. These may be used, for example, to painlessly remove a suspicious-looking growth or to take a biopsy-a small piece for further analysis. In this way, colonoscopy may help to avoid surgery or to better define what type of surgery may need to be done. This procedure is a good way to check for colon cancer and to treat colon polyps – abnormal growths on the inside lining of the intestine. Polyps vary in size and shape and, while most are not cancerous, some may turn into cancer. However, it is not possible to tell just by looking at a polyp if it is malignant or potentially malignant. This is why colonoscopy is often used to remove polyps, a technique called a polypectomy.
Reasons to have a colonoscopy
A colonoscopy may be performed to find the cause of signs and symptoms including:
- bleeding from the rectum
- blood in the stools
- pus or mucus in the stools
- unexplained abdominal pain
- changes in bowel habits such as unexplained and long-lasting diarrhoea
- screening and surveillance for colorectal cancer.
Before the colonoscopy procedure, an intravenous line is inserted into the back of your hand to provide medications that make you relaxed and drowsy. You will be given medications that provide deep sedation so that you will not have any recollection of the procedure or feel pain.
Colonoscopy is performed in a unit that is used for endoscopy procedures only. The patient lies on their left-hand side with their knees tucked up to their chest. The colonoscope is gently inserted through the anus and up into the colon, and air or carbon dioxide is introduced to help the colonoscope pass.
Once the colonoscope has reached the point where the colon joins the small intestine, the doctor slowly withdraws it while looking carefully at the colon lining. Photographs may be taken. The procedure generally takes 15 to 30 minutes.
If colon polyps are found during a colonoscopy, they are removed and the tissue is sent for analysis to determine if the polyp is malignant. Polyp removal or biopsy may cause bleeding. Bleeding may be stopped during the procedure using clips or other methods.
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