What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a flexible scope with a video camera that sends images onto a computer screen so your doctor can evaluate the lining of your entire colon, or large intestine.

Colonoscopies are often performed to examine the inner lining of the bowel to discover growths, such as colon cancers or polyps, or to evaluate for other sources of bleeding. If polyps or unusual growths are identified during the procedure, your surgeon may remove a polyp (polypectomy) or growth or they may biopsy the tissue. A colonoscopy with biopsies may also be performed to diagnose and/or monitor other conditions that affect the large intestine (colon) such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, and diverticular disease.

What are the preparation steps for a colonoscopy?

You must have a clean colon to have a colonoscopy. There are specific instructions including the steps you need to take to prepare for your colonoscopy that you will receive during your colonoscopy consult. The provider will thoroughly review the steps of the preparation, this is a known as a “bowel prep”. All bowel preps will include a liquid diet along with medication to clear out your colon the day before your colonoscopy.

Medications that should be avoided include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil), Celebrex and prescription blood thinners like, Coumadin, Plavix, and other medications in similar drug classes, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements. Medications for diabetes and/or weight may need to be altered or stopped however you should always check with your prescribing physician before stopping or altering any medication schedule. You may take essential medications, like blood pressure, seizure, and reflux medications, with a sip of water.

What happens during a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy usually lasts 20-30 minutes but can take longer if polyps are present, if the colon is excessively long or twisted, or if excessive scar tissue exists. The extent of time required from check–into check-out is approximately 2-2.5 hours.

Your surgeon inserts the colonoscope into your anus and slowly advances the flexible tube through the entire length of your colon, looking for abnormalities. Then, they slowly remove the colonoscope, continuing to evaluate the tissue.

The procedure is done under deep sedation with IV anesthesia administered by an anesthesiologist. This allows you to sleep through the entire procedure without concerns that the procedure might be painful or difficult to go through. The drugs used for this anesthetic rarely result in nausea or vomiting.

What happens after a colonoscopy?

Your surgeon will review the results of your colonoscopy with you and whomever you direct, immediately following the procedure. You may not remember clearly after the anesthesia, so it is helpful to be able to discuss the results with family members who may have accompanied you. You will also be sent home with written discharge instructions for your reference.

Your surgeon may ask that you schedule a follow up appointment based on the results of your colonoscopy. However, after a routine colonoscopy, an office follow-up is not usually necessary. Your next recommended colonoscopy is based on family history, findings at the time of colonoscopy, pathology results or other risk factors. Keep in mind, the results from any pathology testing can take up to 7-10 business days after your procedure to be sent to your provider for review. Once those results have been reviewed, you will receive correspondence in your patient portal letting you know when your next colonoscopy is needed.

Due to the anesthesia received during your colonoscopy, you cannot drive yourself home after the procedure and should not drive until the next day. You must make arrangements to have someone available to be at the facility with you, to take you home. Even if you want to take cab home, you must have someone with you that will be responsible for making sure you arrive home safely. This is a hospital and surgery center policy; you will not be allowed to go through the procedure without a responsible person available to accompany you home.

You may plan to return to work the next day. However, you should avoid going out of town for several days after the procedure, due to delayed symptoms that can occur with rare complications. Complications are not common. These will be discussed with you by your provider during the office visit prior to the procedure. If a complication does occur, it will be treated and managed by your surgeon. This could require hospitalization, medication, additional procedures, blood transfusion or surgery. The post colonoscopy discharge instruction sheets will advise you on events to look out for once you return home.

To find out more about colonoscopy testing at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery, PC, call the office most convenient to you or schedule an appointment online today.