A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure in which the inside of the large intestine (colon and rectum) is examined. A colonoscopy is commonly used to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms, such as rectal and intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits. Colonoscopies are also performed in individuals without symptoms to check for colorectal polyps or cancer. A screening colonoscopy is recommended for anyone 50 years of age and older, and for anyone with parents, siblings, or children with a history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
To have a successful colonoscopy, your bowel must be empty so that your doctor can clearly view the colon. It is very important that you read and follow all of the instructions given to you for your bowel preparation well in advance of the procedure. If your bowel is not empty, your colonoscopy will not be successful and may have to be repeated.
During a colonoscopy, an experienced doctor uses a colonoscope (a long, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch 1.27cm in diameter) to view the lining of the colon. The colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the large intestine. If necessary during a colonoscopy, small amounts of tissue can be removed for analysis (a biopsy) and polyps can be identified and entirely removed. In many cases, a colonoscopy allows accurate diagnosis and treatment of colorectal problems without the need for a major operation.
The procedure typically lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Note: To follow are other important questions to ask your doctor. Keep in mind that each doctor and/or his or her health care facility has their own unique set of instructions for their patients. Most doctors/healthcare facilities are in general agreement with the following answers. However, ALWAYS ask your doctor for his/her specific instructions.
Driving home. If sedation has been given, a responsible adult (a family member or friend) must drive you home.
Being alone when home. For safety reasons, you probably shouldn’t be alone. Ask your doctor how long you should remain with family or friends.
Returning to normal diet and activities. Unless otherwise instructed, most patients can return to their normal diet immediately following the colonoscopy. Other typical advice is to avoid alcohol, driving, regular activities, and operating machinery for 24 hours following the procedure.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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