If your gastroenterologist told you that you need to get a colonoscopy, it is natural to want to learn more about the procedure, such as its risks and what to expect during and after it.
Here are some of the questions you might want to consider asking your doctor about colonoscopy.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure used for detecting and addressing colorectal polyps—some of which can develop into colorectal cancer—and diagnosing other conditions affecting the colon and rectum.
A colonoscopy is used to pinpoint the cause of the following symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal bleeding and/or bloody stools
- Poor appetite
How Accurate Is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy has a remarkable accuracy (sensitivity of 94.7 percent and specificity of 99.8 percent), which is why it is deemed the gold standard for colorectal cancer detection.
How Do I Prepare for a Colonoscopy?
You will be given detailed preoperative instructions to help you adequately prepare for your colonoscopy, including how to thoroughly clean out your colon.
Good preparation helps to ensure the success of the procedure. Any residue left in your colon may obscure the view during the exam, preventing it from being inspected properly.
Various methods can be used to help cleanse your bowel. These include following a special diet three to four days prior to your exam, taking a laxative, using an enema, and adjusting certain medications.
What Happens During a Colonoscopy?
During your appointment, your doctor will insert a colonoscope—a long, thin, and semi-flexible tube with a light and tiny video camera on its tip that projects real-time images of the inside of your colon onto a computer monitor—into your rectum. Your doctor will then gently advance the colonoscope to get a view of the entire length of your colon.
The colonoscope has a channel, which allows your doctor to:
- Inflate or deflate your colon
- Use small instruments during the procedure to remove polyps or to do a biopsy (obtain a tissue sample)
- Use water jet instrument to cleanse the lining of your colon to keep the view clear
What Happens After a Colonoscopy?
You will need time to recover from the sedative administered during the procedure, and thus, you will require someone to drive you home.
Your doctor will inform you about the results of your colonoscopy and give you any additional necessary information. You will also be given instructions regarding how soon you can eat and drink as well as resuming your normal routine. Any biopsies will be taken to the lab for analysis.
You may experience bloating, gassiness, and/or mild cramping after your colonoscopy, but these are usually temporary, thus expected to subside in a few days.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
While colonoscopy is considered a relatively safe procedure, it still has a few risks—though very rare. These include:
- Perforation or puncture of the colon or rectum wall, which could require surgical repair
- Bleeding (after a biopsy or polyp removal)
- Adverse reaction to the sedative
Other Questions to Ask Your Colonoscopy Doctor
- Why can’t I take a stool test instead of a colonoscopy?
- What alternatives are there?
- How will the colonoscopy preparation affect my medications?
- Is it painful?
- What is your adenoma (polyps or growths) detection rate?
- Will I require a follow-up appointment?
- Will I need another colonoscopy exam?
- How often should I have a colonoscopy?
- Will I need time off from work following a colonoscopy?
- What do my results mean?
- Does my insurance cover the cost of my colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy in California
At inSite Digestive Health Care, we offer comprehensive diagnostic services as well as nonsurgical and surgical treatment to address the full range of gastrointestinal conditions.
To schedule a colonoscopy appointment or a consultation with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists, please call us at the location nearest you, or you can use our secure online appointment request form.