A colonoscopy is a visual examination of the entire large intestine (colon) using a lighted, flexible colonoscope. To be certain you are comfortable and relaxed, you will be sedated through an I.V. In fact, most patients are asleep during the entire process and remember little to nothing about it.
What Happens During a Colonoscopy?
To be certain you are comfortable and relaxed, you will be given intravenous (IV) sedation. In fact, most patients are asleep during the entire process and remember little or nothing about it.
When it’s time to start the examination, you will be asked to lie on your side. Once sedation takes effect, the colonoscope is inserted into the rectum and moved gently around the bends of the colon. As the colonoscope makes its way through the colon, the physician can see the lining of the colon on a television screen. Typically, the physician looks all the way to the end of the large intestine, and back, for anything unusual. The entire scoping process typically takes 20 minutes to an hour. When complete, your nurse will take you into a recovery area, where the sedation quickly wears off. Your physician will talk to you about your test and any findings.
What Are the Possible Outcomes from a Colonoscopy?
If polyps (growths of tissue) are found, your doctor can remove them during the procedure. The procedure involves passing an instrument through the scope to remove the polyp, which is sent to a laboratory to be analyzed.
You should feel nothing when a biopsy or polyp is taken, and you should experience no recovery pain. While the overwhelming majority of polyps are benign, your physician will have it tested and confirm your results with you, usually within 24 to 72 hours depending on the day of the week of the procedure. Furthermore, since most colon cancer starts as a benign polyp, when these are removed, the possibility of them growing into cancer is eliminated as well.
What Happens After a Colonoscopy?
It takes about an hour to begin to recover from deep sedation. You will need someone to drive you home because it can take up to a day for the full effects of the sedative to wear off. You should be able to resume normal activity the next day. If a polyp was removed during your colonoscopy, your doctor may put you on a special diet temporarily.
Your doctor will go over the results with you. The results of a colonoscopy are considered either negative or positive. A negative result means that the doctor did not find any abnormalities in the colon. A positive result means that the doctor found polyps or abnormal issue in the colon. Your doctor may recommend having a follow-up colonoscopy in as little as three months depending on the size and number of polyps found. If no polyps were found, your next colonoscopy will need to be in 10 years, but it could be sooner depending on your family history and other factors.