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The Dreaded Colonoscopy and What it Involves

  • Published: 2015-01-20 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-27) : Author: Thomas C. weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Thomas C. Weiss explains the ins and outs of a colonoscopy, a test that permits doctors to examine inner lining of the large intestine.

Main Document

When I turned 50 years of age, my VA doctor suggested a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test that permits a doctor to examine the inner lining of a person's large intestine. The doctor uses a thin, 4-6 foot flexible tube called a, 'colonoscope,' to look at a person's intestine. The colonoscope helps the doctor to find colon polyps, ulcers, areas of bleeding or inflammation, as well as tumors. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples or, 'biopsy,' samples may be collected and abnormal growths might be taken out. Colonoscopy may also be used as a screening test in order to check for cancer or precancerous growths in a person's rectum or colon.

A colonoscope is a flexible tube that ranges in length from 4 feet to 6 feet. A small video camera is attached to the colonoscope so a doctor may take pictures of video of a person's large intestine.

Before the test, a person needs to clean out their colon. Colon preparation takes 1-2 days depending upon which type of preparation a doctor recommends. Some preps might be taken the evening before the test. Bowel preparation may be uncomfortable and make a person feel hungry on the clear liquid diet.

People need to plan to remain at home during their preparation time because they will need to use the bathroom more often. Colon preparation causes loose and frequent stools and diarrhea so a person's colon will be empty for the test. If a person needs to drink a solution as part of their preparation, they need to be sure to have clear fruit juices or soft drinks to consume after the preparation because the solution may have an unpleasant or salty taste. A colonoscopy is performed in order to check for:

Performing a Colonoscopy

Image of a long colonoscope
About This Image: Image of a long colonoscope
A colonoscopy might be performed in a clinic, a doctor's office, or in the hospital. The test is most often performed by a doctor who works with issues of a person's digestive system. The doctor may also have an assistant, making me personally even more uncomfortable - you don't know either of the people shoving a 6 foot rubber hose up your anus. Some internists and surgeons are also trained to perform a colonoscopy.

During the colonoscopy, a person might be administered pain medication. The medications are meant to help people relax and feel sleepy during the test.

People who choose to undergo a colonoscopy are asked to take off their clothing and given one of those lovely hospital gowns where your buns hang out for the world to see. The person may lie on their left side with their knees pulled up to their belly. The fact that people are drugged for this, 'procedure,' means they most likely will not remember much until they wake up and realize exactly what 6 feet of rubber hose up the buns means.

A person undergoing a colonoscopy might feel the need to have a bowel movement as the colonoscope is in their colon. They may feel cramping as well. The person will likely feel and hear some air escape around the lengthy colonoscope. The passing of air is expected and a person might be asked to change positions during the test.

A doctor examines the entire length of a person's colon as the colonoscope is moved in and out of their colon. The doctor might use tools such as loops, forceps, or swabs through the colonoscope to collect sample tissues or remove growths. While doctors claim that people often do not feel anything if a biopsy is done or if polyps are removed.

The colonoscope is pulled out of a person's anus and air escapes. The person's anal area is cleaned with tissues. The tests usually takes 30-45 minutes, although it might take longer depending on what is found and what is done during the test.

Following a colonoscopy, a person might need to remain at the clinic for an hour or two due to the drugs that may have been used. The person may be permitted to leave sooner with another person who can drive them home. A doctor tells you when you can eat a regular diet and perform their usual activities. Drinking plenty of fluids after the test to replace lost fluids is important. If a person was drugged during the test, it is important that they do not drive, sign legal documents, or operate machinery for 24 hours after it.

How a Colonoscopy Feels

Colon preparation will definitely cause diarrhea; some experience cramping as well. During the colonoscopy, a person might feel very sleepy and relaxed from the pain medication and sedative. The person may experience cramping or feel sharp pains as the colonoscope is moved or air is blown out of their colon. As the colonoscope is moved up the person's colon, they may feel the need to have a bowel movement and pass gas.

A suction machine is used to remove secretions and stool and might be loud, although it does not cause pain. The person will feel sleepy after being administered a sedative and pain medications. A number of people state they do not remember much about the colonoscopy because of the sedative.

Following the colonoscopy, a person may have cramping from gas pains and bloating. If a biopsy was done, or a polyp was removed, the person may have traces of blood in their stool for a few days. If polyps were removed, a doctor might instruct the person not to take NSAID's or aspirin for 7-14 days.

There is a chance for issues from a colonoscopy. The colonoscope or a small tool may tear the lining of a person's colon or cause bleeding. After a colonoscopy it is important to call the doctor promptly if you:

Results of a Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a test that allows some doctor to examine the inner lining of a person's large intestine and rectum. If a sample of tissue is collected during the procedure it will be sent to a lab for testing. Samples of colon tissue are usually sent to a pathology lab where they are examined under a microscope for diseases. Additional samples of colon tissue may be sent to a microbiology laboratory to find out if an infection is present.

A doctor might be able to tell a person their results promptly after the procedure, kind of like telling a drugged person to try to remember what someone else has said right after being drugged. Other test results are ready in 2-4 days. Test results for certain infections may be available in a number of weeks.

A, 'normal,' result of a colonoscopy finds a person's colon appearing pink and smooth with a lot of folds. There are no pouches, growths, inflammation or bleeding found. 'Abnormal,' colonoscopy results finds things such as hemorrhoids, cancer, polyps, one or more ulcers, pouches in the wall of the person's colon, or inflammation. A red and swollen lining of a person's colon may be caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or an infection.

The ability to examine a person's colon for abnormal results is an amazing medical one.

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