Colonoscopy Animation

COLONOSCOPY  Colonoscopy is a procedure used to diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits, blood in stool and blood from the rectum. It is also used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy lets the clinician look inside the entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. Colonoscopy enables the clinician to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcers, bleeding and muscle spasms. Sometimes a small piece or pieces of tissue will be removed during the procedure for later testing. For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the examining table. You will probably be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and to help you relax during the exam. The clinician will insert a long, slender, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a colonoscope. The colonoscope transmits an image of the inside of the colon to a computer screen allowing careful examination of the lining of the colon. The colonoscope bends, allowing it to maneuver around the curves of your colon. You may be asked to change position occasionally to help the clinician during the procedure. The colonoscope can also blow air, which inflates the colon to help give a better view. The colonoscopy usually lasts from 30 to 60 minutes and rarely requires a hospital stay. If anything unusual is seen in your colon, such as a polyp, the clinician can remove a piece of it using tiny instruments passed through the colonoscope. Polyps are small growths on the lining of the colon and can be signs of cancer or future cancers. The removed tissue, called a biopsy, is then sent to a laboratory for testing. What Is the Preparation? Your colon must be completely empty for the colonoscopy to be thorough and safe. To prepare for the procedure you may have to follow a liquid diet for 1 to 3 days beforehand. A liquid diet means fat-free bouillon or broth, Jell-O®, strained fruit juice, water, plain coffee, plain tea, or diet soda. Usually you are given medication prior to the day of the procedure to thoroughly clean out your colon. Remember, if the preparation is not completed properly the clinician may not be able to see the walls of the colon and the procedure may need to be rescheduled. Also, you must arrange for someone to take you home afterward. You will not be allowed to drive because of the sedatives. Your clinician may give you other special instructions. What are the Benefits and Risks? Colonoscopy gives your healthcare provider information that other tests, including fecal occult blood tests, a barium enema and sigmoidoscopy, may be unable to provide. It is a safe procedure and serious complications are rare. Possible complications that can occur are: * A hole or tear in the tissue being examined by the colonoscope, which may require surgery to repair. If this occurs, an infection can develop. This complication is serious and may result in pain, disability or death; however, it is rare. * Aspirating or inhaling food or fluids into the lungs. This risk can be reduced by not eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure. * Bleeding from biopsies or polyp removal. If bleeding occurs, it us usually minimal, stops quickly on its own or can be easily controlled. * Reactions to medications used for sedation before and during the procedures, such as low blood pressure, apnea or suspension of breathing and slowed heart rate. Make certain your clinician and nurses are aware of any previous medical reactions or allergies. Include any health problems such as heart, lung, kidneys or liver disease. * Local skin reaction to medications at the I.V. (intravenous) site. If redness, warmth or swelling occurs, apply warm and moist compresses to the site. If the symptoms persist, contact your health care provider. When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider You may worry about pain or discomfort during your colonoscopy. Most people have no difficulty and tolerate the procedure well. However, because fatigue is common, plan on relaxing and resting the remainder of the day. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if the following symptoms should occur: • Severe abdominal pain, other than gas cramps. • A firm, bloated abdomen. • Fever. • Vomiting. • Rectal bleeding more than a few tablespoons. Things to Remember Make sure you complete your pre-procedure preparation as directed to ensure the colonoscopy is successful. Poor preparation may lead to repeating the procedure. Remember to arrange for someone to drive you home. You will not be allowed to drive because of sedation. What We Have Learned 1. A colonoscopy can diagnose unexplained changes in the bowel. True or False The answer is True 2. Not eating or drinking for several hours before your colonoscopy reduces the risk of aspiration. True or False The answer is True 3. Severe abdominal pain is normal after a colonoscopy. True or False The answer is False For Further Information U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Library of Medicine American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons