This procedure is used to examine the appearance of colon using a thin, flexible viewing tube (colonoscope), which is attached to a viewing monitor. Colonoscopies are used when symptoms appear that suggest colon diseases. This procedure is your best alternative in order to evaluate the cause of blood in the stool, abdominal pain, diarrhea, change in bowel habits and abnormalities found during x-rays or CAT Scan. Some patients that have a family history of colon disease may be recommended to schedule regular colonoscopies because they are at a greater risk of developing polyps or colon cancer.
Before the procedure it is necessary that all fecal matter be removed from the colon. The presence of any fecal matter may affect the effectiveness and duration of the exam. Therefore, the patient is put on a liquid diet and given cleansing enemas before the procedure. Additional medication may be given to help empty the bowels.
In general, medications should not be discontinued during a colonoscopy; however, certain medications such as blood thinners may affect the effectiveness of the exam. Therefore, discuss any medications you are taking with your physician before the exam, in addition to making him/her aware of any allergies or pre-existing conditions. Also, let your physician know if you have been given antibiotics before any other medical or dental surgery.
During the procedure, the patient is given an IV and the heart blood pressure and oxygenation of blood are monitored. A sedative or other pain relief medications may also be administered. The patient may experience bloating, cramping and pressure during the procedure; yet, these effects will be minimal with the medications. The patient will then lie on their left side or back while the colonoscope is slowly inserted through the anus and into the colon. The lining and integrity of the colon is monitored as it is inserted and retracted. Abnormalities such as polyps and bleeding can be tended during this portion of the procedure. A biopsy (tissue sample) may also be taken to be analyzed for cancer. This procedure lasts about 15-60 mins.
The patient will be in observation for about 1-2 hours while the medication wear off. Afterwards, a driver may take the patient home. The patient should not drive or operate machinery for the entire day even if they feel alert, since sedatives have been administered. Side effects include cramping and gas; these will be relieved shortly after the procedure with the passing of gas. Diet and activities may be restricted if polyps were removed during biopsy.
Complications from colonoscopy are very rare. They include: bleeding at site of biopsy (which can be tended to without surgery or transfusion), reaction to sedatives, irritation of vein through which sedatives were administered, and complications resulting from pre-existing heart and lung diseases. If you experience any of the following side effects you should contact your physician immediately: severe abdominal pain, fever, chills or rectal bleeding.
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