Colonoscopy is a medical procedure to examine the inside of the gut (colon & rectum) with the help of a colonoscope (a thin, flexible, hollow, light tube with a small camera on the end).
Colonoscope is a thin, flexible, hollow, light tube with a small camera on the end. It is used to visualize the interior of colon.
Colonoscopy is done to find:
Tumors/cancer (As a part of screening of Cancer or suspicion of cancer)
Blood in Stools
Areas of inflammation
Reason for abdominal pain, constipation/diarrhea, weight loss
To diagnose the cause of abnormal results from any test (MRI, stool test, CT scan).
In case the patient gets an abnormal report, he/she should consult a gastroenterologist regarding the problem and the gastroenterologist will guide them further.
Before the colonoscopy test is done:
The bowel has to be as clear as possible so that the doctors can get a good view of the inside.
The patient has to avoid certain foods and medicines and the doctor might put him/her on a clear liquid diet (which includes green tea, juices, water, and clear broths) for one day or more.
Strong laxative tablets or solutions (such as Golytely or Nulytely) are also given to clean out the colon, and sometimes enema is also given. The laxatives start working very quickly and after taking them the patient might need to go to the bathroom frequently, so it is recommended that the patient stay at home before the day of the test.
The doctor will give you instructions prior to the colonoscopy test but if you have some concerns, you should talk to the doctor about it without any hesitation.
The patient should drink plenty of water, so that they do not get dehydrated.
The patient should stop drinking clear liquids 6 – 8 hours before the test.
The patient is not allowed to drive for 24 hours after the test, so he/she should arrange for a mode of transport beforehand.
A gastroenterologist usually performs the colonoscopy procedure, with the help of an assistant.
It is either done in daycare procedure room or in the hospitalized patients (in ICU or ward setting too).
Medicines are given to the patient before the procedure commences. It helps the patient to relax and sleep during the test. The patient has to wear a gown and lie on their left side with their knees pulled up near the belly.
A colonoscope is inserted into the rectum of the patient. Air is pushed to inflate the colon, so that the camera can be inserted easily and the doctor can look at the lining of the colon clearly. The patient may feel abdominal spasms due to the inflation.
The camera in the colonoscope sends pictures to an external monitor.
The doctor examines the whole length of the colon and removes polyps (if any) and takes tissue samples for testing.
After the examination is over, the colonoscope is taken out of the colon.
You may feel discomfort after the procedure.
It may take few hours to a day to recover completely from the effects of sedatives.
You may feel bloated & pass lot of gas after the procedure.
You may experience small amount of blood in stools after the procedure.
Some patients may experience fever for few days.
There are some precautions that a patient should take after the procedure:
The patient should not drive a car or use heavy machinery for 24 hours because of the sedatives.
If a polyp is removed, then the doctor will give you a special diet to follow for some time.
The patients should consume plenty of fluids after the test.
The patient should avoid any intake of alcohol for some time.
There might be a small amount of blood with the first bowel movement after the test is performed, but if it persists the patient should consult a doctor.
Risk and Complications
Colonoscopy has very few side effects and there is rarely any complication in the procedure.
Some side effects that can occur are:
Adverse reaction to sedatives
Heavy bleeding in the rectal area
A tear in the rectum wall or colon, know as perforation
Bleeding at the site from where the tissue was taken
Having swelling or firmness in the belly
Severe abdominal pain
Cardiovascular problems like low blood pressure, increase or decrease in heart rate, heart attack etc.
Is the procedure painful?
The colonoscopy procedure is not painful for most patients; though, it might be slightly discomforting for others.
Typically, the patient is given a medicine to induce sleep, so he/she stays sleepy throughout the test. The patient might feel uneasy or a slight pain when air is blown in the colon or when the camera is inserted.
Do I require admission for the procedure?
The patient is not required to be admitted in the hospital for colonoscopy. It is usually done on a day care basis. The average duration of the procedure is approximately 30 minutes. After the procedure, the patient is required to stay in the hospital for 3 – 4 hours.
Someone should accompany the patient to the hospital when the test is going to be performed.
The patient may feel nauseated and uncomfortable after the test.
He/she feel may also feel very sleepy, feeble and have poor reflexes because of the sedatives due to which driving is also not allowed for 24 hours. For this reason, someone should accompany the patient and take him/her home safely.
The cost of colonoscopy varies with the healthcare institutions. It may range from Rs 5000 – 12000.
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