What is colonoscopy?
This is a medical procedure which allows for inspection of the colon (large bowel) using a long flexible instrument with a camera which is passed by the doctor through the anus and rectum to examine the cleaned bowel.
Why is colonoscopy performed?
Colonoscopy is a vital procedure to detect bowel pathology. It is highly sensitive in detecting polyps, cancers, inflammation and abnormal blood vessels of the colon. It may be used to evaluate an unexplained change in bowel habit, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or weight loss. It is an important screening tool for patients with a family history of colon cancer and is required for surveillance in those with a personal history of colon polyps where removal of polyps at colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer.
How do I prepare for colonoscopy?
For a successful colonoscopy, it is essential to thoroughly cleanse the bowel, which can be achieved by taking a bowel preparation. Failure to do this prior to colonoscopy may result in a failed procedure requiring a repeat after further cleansing.
A complete bowel preparation consists of:
1. Modifying your diet
This involves following a special diet for several days.
2. Taking a bowel preparation medication
A standard combination of laxative medications are used to create diarrhoea so as to empty the bowel. This is sometimes modified due to medical history or previous experience of inadequate bowel preparation or intolerance.
3. Increasing your fluid intake
Specific preparation instructions will be given to you by your doctor or Keilor Private staff.
4. An empty stomach is essential for a safe examination.
Your preparation instructions will indicate how long you must avoid all oral intake prior to your scheduled procedure.
How is colonoscopy performed?
Before the procedure, you will be asked to lie down on your left side and will be given oxygen to breathe. An anaesthetist will give you a light anaesthetic which is extremely safe and short-acting. Most patients will be completely asleep and unaware of the procedure which usually takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. You will be carefully monitored throughout the procedure.
While you are asleep, colonoscopy is performed by your specialist gently inserting the colonoscope through the anus and steering the instrument around the large bowel to the beginning of the colon. A small camera in the end of the instrument transmits a video image to a monitor, allowing for detailed examination of the lining of the bowel. During the procedure, photographs can be taken and samples obtained. Polyps, which are abnormal tissue growths on the lining of the colon are removed at the time of colonoscopy. Removal of polyps is known to protect against the development of colon cancer and is an especially important role of colonoscopy.
After the colonoscopy
You will be monitored in the recovery area until the effects of the sedation have worn off. It is very unlikely that you will experience any pain following the procedure. Mild bloating or discomfort may occur on occasion. Most patients will be allowed to eat and drink immediately after the procedure and food and beverages are provided.
The doctor performing the colonoscopy will discuss the results with you and you will receive a copy of the report to take back to your doctor. Any biopsies or polyps will be forwarded to Melbourne Pathology and results will be available to your referring doctor after several days. An appointment with your family doctor or specialist should be made to discuss the results and allow further treatment.
Because of the sedation given it is very important that you do not drive a car, travel on public transport alone, operate machinery or sign legal documents on the day of the test. It is strongly advised that a friend or relative take you home and stay with you. Most patients are able to resume all duties the next day.
Risks or Side Effects
Complications are uncommon. The risks depend on the exact procedure performed and your general health. Occasionally, patients may be intolerant of the bowel preparation medication and experience headaches or vomiting. Reactions to the anaesthetic drugs are also possible, but rare.
Complications from the procedure itself include bleeding from the site of polyp removal or rarely, perforation of the colon (occurs in 1 in 1000 procedures) and requires closure by clips or surgery in hospital.
In some cases, if the colonoscopy is not successfully completed, it may need to be repeated.
In the days following your procedure, if you experience any of the following, contact your specialist on pager 9387 1000 or Keilor Private on 8340 6400 immediately.
- Severe abdominal pain
- Black tarry motions
- Persistent bleeding from the anus
- Other symptoms that cause you concern
What to bring
- Hospital Registration forms with details completed
- Referral letter
- List of current medications
- Medicare card
- Pension or Health Care Card
- Veterans Affairs Card
- Private Health Fund details (if applicable)