Colonoscopy procedure refers to a medical process during which a long flexible tube is used to look inside the colon. The colon, or large intestine, is the last portion of your digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It starts at the cecum, which attaches to the end of the small intestine. The colon consists of a hollow tube about five feet long that absorbs water and minerals from digested food and contains the rectum, which stores undigested solid waste. A Colonoscopy is a procedure used to diagnose and, in some cases, treat problems of the lower digestive system and is an important way to check for colon cancer and treat colon polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths on the inside lining of the intestine; they vary in size and shape and while most polyps are not cancerous, some may turn into cancer. However, it is not possible to tell just by looking at a polyp if it is malignant or potentially malignant. This is why colonoscopy is often used to remove polyps, a technique called a Polypectomy.
The main instrument that is used to look inside the colon is the Colonoscope. The Colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light on the end and is long enough to inspect all of the large bowel and even the lower part of the small intestine. By adjusting the various controls on the Colonoscope, Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin J. Parikh, Dr. Ruth Montalvo, Dr. Jae Kim, or Dr. Long B. Nguyen can carefully guide the instrument in any direction to look at the inside of the colon. The high-quality picture from the Colonoscope is shown on a TV monitor, and gives a clear, detailed view.
Another advantage of the procedure is that, when needed, other instruments can be passed through the Colonoscope. These may be used, for example, to painlessly remove a suspicious-looking growth or to biopsy, that is, take a small piece of tissue for further analysis. In this way, a Colonoscopy may help to avoid surgery or to better define what type of surgery may need to be done. A Colonoscopy is a safe and effective way to evaluate problems such as:
- Blood loss.
- Abdominal or rectal pain.
- Changes in bowel habits, such as chronic diarrhea.
- Abnormalities that may have first been detected by other studies, such as an inflamed colon noted on a CT scan of the abdomen.
- Active bleeding from the large bowel.
Did You Know?
- Cancer of the colon and rectum — called Colorectal Cancer (CRC) — occurs when a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum has become malignant, or cancerous. Colorectal Cancer can be cured, especially when detected early.
- Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
- If you are over age 50 it is time to schedule your screening Colonoscopy now! Beginning at 50, both men and women are at average risk for developing Colorectal Cancer.
- Regular screenings help prevent this disease by finding precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Regardless of why a Colonoscopy has been recommended for you, there are important steps you can take to prepare for and participate in the procedure.
- Provide a complete list of all the medicines you are taking — including any over-the-counter medications and natural supplements — and any allergies to drugs or other substances.
- Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, or Dr. Nitin Parikh will also want to know if you have a heart, lung or other medical condition that may need special attention before, during or after a Colonoscopy.
- It is very important they know if you are taking diabetic medications or anticoagulants (sometimes called blood thinners) or have bleeding or clotting problems.
- Patients are given instructions in advance that outlines what they should and should not do to prepare for a Colonoscopy.
- One very critical step is to thoroughly clean out the colon, which, for many patients, can be the most trying part of the entire exam. It is essential that you complete this step carefully, because it will help determine how well Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Ruth Montalvo, Dr. Jae Kim, Dr. Long Nguyen,or Dr. Nitin Parikh can examine your colon.
- Various methods can be used to help cleanse the bowel. Often, a liquid preparation designed to stimulate bowel movements is given by mouth. Additional approaches include special diets, such as clear fluids, or the use of enemas or suppositories. Whichever method or combination of methods is recommended for you, be sure to follow instructions as directed.
- Check your instructions about what to eat or drink the night before your Colonoscopy and when to stop eating.
- You will be asked to sign a form, which verifies that you consent to having the procedure and that you understand what is involved. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask for more information.
About the Colonoscopy Procedure
A Colonoscopy can be done in a hospital, an ambulatory surgery center or an outpatient office. During the procedure, everything will be done to ensure that you will be as comfortable as possible. An intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm to deliver medication that will make you relaxed and drowsy. The drug may enable you to remain awake and cooperative while preventing you from remembering much of the experience. Once you are fully relaxed, your doctor will first do a rectal exam with a gloved, lubricated finger; then the lubricated Colonoscope will be gently inserted. As the scope is slowly and carefully passed, you may feel as if you need to move your bowels, and because air is introduced to help advance the scope, you may feel some cramping or fullness. Generally, however, there is little or no discomfort. The time needed for a Colonoscopy will vary, depending in part on what is found and what is done; on average, the procedure takes about 30 minutes.
You should also be aware that a Colonoscopy procedure is not perfect and even with skilled physicians like Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, Dr. Long Nguyen, Dr. Jae Kim, Dr. Ruth Montalvo or Dr. Nitin Parikh it is possible that some colon lesions (abnormalities) can be missed. Complications rarely occur – perforation or puncture of the colon wall would require surgical repair. When a polyp is removed or a biopsy is performed, it is possible that a hemorrhage (heavy bleeding) may result and sometimes require a blood transfusion or reinsertion of the Colonoscope to control the bleeding.
Aftercare and Recovery
When your Colonoscopy procedure is completed, you will be cared for in a recovery area until most of the effects of the medication have worn off. You will be informed about the results of the procedure and any additional information you need to know. Patients are also given instructions regarding how soon they can eat and drink, plus other guidelines for resuming normal activities. Occasionally, minor problems may persist, such as bloating, gas or mild cramping – these symptoms usually disappear within 24 hours. By the time you are ready to go home, you will feel more alert; however, you should plan on resting for the remainder of the day. This means no driving, so you will need to have a family member or friend take you home.
Board-Certified physicians Dr. Ranvir Singh, Dr. Stephen Rashbaum, Dr. Nitin J. Parikh, Dr. Long B. Nguyen, Dr. Ruth Montalvo, Dr. Jae Kim, and providers Tammi D’Elena, PA-C and Vanessa T. Bridgeman, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC; care for patients in the North Atlanta, GA; area including Johns Creek, GA, Cumming, GA, Lawrenceville, GA, Alpharetta, GA, and Dawsonville, GA. The in-house endoscopy suite at Digestive Care Physicians is a certified facility which has achieved the highest level of accreditation by the Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). If you suffer from gastrointestinal problems, abdominal pain, or need a colorectal cancer screening, contact us at (770) 227-2222 to schedule an appointment.