What is a Colonoscopy Lower Endoscopy?
Your doctor has recommended that you have a Colonoscopy, also called a lower endoscopy. It is a procedure to examine your colon.
This video will help you to understand this procedure. Let’s begin by reviewing information about your body.
During a colonoscopy procedure, the inside of the colon is inspected for problems. The procedure is used for both colon cancer screening and diagnostic testing.
The American Cancer Association recommends that colon cancer screening start at age 50 for early detection and prevention. Patients at high risk should be screened sooner, especially those with or a family history.
There are many ways to screen patients for colon cancer.
A colonoscopy is the most complete way to screen for colon cancer because the entire inside of the colon is examined. Polyps can be removed and suspicious growths can be biopsied.
A colonoscopy can also be used as a diagnostic procedure to look for a suspected mass or abnormality and to investigate a symptom or complaint such as belly pain, bloody stool, constipation, and diarrhea.
A colonoscopy procedure is done using a long flexible scope, this is an instrument with a light and camera at the tip.
The scope makes it possible to see and operate on hard to reach areas of the colon without making a cut or incision in the skin.
Tools such as scissors, graspers, and cautery can be used through the scope to biopsy, remove abnormal tissue and stop bleeding if needed.
Your doctor is searching for dangling pieces of tissue called polyps, and any other lumps or worrisome changes to the colon.
If biopsies and tissue samples are collected, they are sent to a pathology lab for examination.
Before the procedure, you will do a colon prep to empty all stool from your large intestine.
The prep usually starts the morning before the procedure with a clear liquid diet. Laxative medications to flush out your stool begin later in the afternoon. An enema may be recommended.
Your prep details are based on your situation and your doctor’s preferences.
You will need to be prepared before starting the prep, read and understand your prep instructions, especially when to start.
- Have clear liquids available to drink, nothing with red or purple dye,
- And have your prep solution, laxatives, and medications ready.
After starting the laxatives during the prep you will have many liquid stools that should become clear and watery.
- You will need to stay close to a toilet. Soft flushable wipes and vaseline can be helpful if the skin on your bottom becomes sore.
- If you have difficulty with the prep, let your care team know before the procedure.
The effectiveness of the colonoscopy can be limited by stool that has not cleared and can hide problem areas. You may be advised to reschedule and follow a different prep.
Also, the shape of a colon can be too long or curvy for the scope to get to where it needs to be. In this case, a different test may be recommended
Now let’s look closer at the colonoscopy procedure.
- To start you will be positioned comfortably.
- You will be given medication to help you relax or sleep during the procedure.
- A well-lubricated scope is gently placed in your rectum.
Using the light and camera lens of the scope to see, your doctor guides the scope to reach the other end of your colon.
You may feel some pressure or tugging, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
The entire inside of the colon is carefully inspected.
Individual colon polyps if found may be removed for testing.
If a mass or lesion is seen, it may be painlessly biopsied or removed using a tool through the scope.
After the entire colon has been examined the scope is removed and the procedure is complete.
After surgery “speak-up” and tell your care team if you have more than expected pain or problems.
You may feel awake quickly.
- However, the anesthesia medications will affect you for the first day.
- During the first 24 hours after the procedure do not drive or operate machinery.
- You will need a ride home.
- Plan to rest for the remainder of the day.
- Do not make important decisions and do not drink
After the colonoscopy, you may have gas pain from air in your colon. Relaxing on your side in bed or taking a warm shower may help you to pass any gas.
You may see a small amount of blood in your stool for a few days if biopsies were done.
Rarely serious problems can happen such as a tear or injury to the colon. Bleeding or infection may result.
Call your doctor to be seen if you have a fever, worsening abdominal pain or have bleeding from your rectum that doesn’t stop.
Hospital admission, medication or surgery may be needed to fix some complications.
To avoid cancellation or complications from anesthesia or your procedure, your job as the patient is to
- not eat, drink or chew gum after midnight, the night before the procedure unless you are given different instructions
- take only medications you were told to on the morning of the procedure with a sip of water
- follow instructions regarding aspirin and blood thinners before surgery, as you may be asked to stop or continue taking them depending on your situation,
- and arrive on time.
You should be ready to verify or confirm your list of medical problems and surgeries, all of your medications, including vitamins and supplements, your current smoking, alcohol, and drug use and all allergies, especially to medications, latex and tape.
Before you have this procedure it is your job to speak up and ask if you still have questions about why it is recommended for you, the risks and alternatives. Also understand the risk of not having the procedure.
This video is intended as a tool to help you to better understand the procedure that you are scheduled to have or are considering. It is not intended to replace any discussion, decision making or advice of your physician.