A colonoscopy is a specialized examination that allows your surgeon to look inside your large intestine (colon). A colonoscope is a long thin and flexible tube with a high definition video camera attached to one end and controls at the other end. This allows your doctor to guide the colonoscope safely to the areas to be examined.
This test is usually recommended for evaluation of symptoms of the colon (such as bleeding, change in bowel patterns, abdominal discomfort) or for colorectal cancer screening. The large intestine is the site of numerous disorders such as haemorrhoids or piles, inflammation, polyps and cancer. If needed, and where technically possible, treatment can also be performed through the colonoscope, at the same examination. For example, a polyp can be painlessly removed through the colonoscope using electrocautery (electrical heat).
You will need to take medication (3-4 glasses) to clean out your large intestine the evening before the test, so that clear views can be obtained. During the procedure, everything will be done to make you as comfortable as possible.
The entire procedure takes between 15 to 20 minutes.
Although colonoscopy is a safe procedure, complications can sometimes occur. The 2 main risks are: bleeding and bowel perforation and occur in less than 1 in 1000 cases (0.1%).
After the procedure, you will be brought to the recovery area for monitoring and observation. You should not drive or operate machinery on the same day. For this reason, someone else should preferably be available to accompany you home. Your doctor will make an appointment for you to let you know the findings of the colonoscopy, answer any questions you may have and, if needed, discuss future treatment.
Alternative tests to colonoscopy include a barium enema or a CT colonography. Both are specialized forms of x-rays that outline the colon and allow a diagnosis to be made. Study of the stools and blood can also provide indirect information about a colon condition. These exams, however, do not allow direct viewing of the colon, removal of polyps, or tissue samples of abnormal findings. For these reasons, Colonoscopy is the recommended Gold Standard for colonic examination.