A colonoscopy is a visual examination of the entire large intestine (colon) using a lighted, flexible colonoscope that screens for colon polyps and colon cancer. To be certain you are comfortable and relaxed during your colonoscopy, 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 to Expect
Knowing what to expect can help take the stress out of any procedure. Here's what you can expect during a colonoscopy procedure.
When it's time to start the screening, you will be asked to lie on your side. Once sedation takes effect, the colonoscope is inserted through 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 between 15 and 30 minutes. 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.
How to Prepare
Preparation for a colonoscopy begins with a thorough cleansing of the entire bowel. This is essential for effective results so there will not be a need for retesting. Instructions for doing this will be given by your physician, but this can include a combination of the following: enema, restriction from eating solid foods a day or two before the test and taking pill-form and/or liquid laxatives. You may be told to stop taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications for several days before the test as well.
To avoid dehydration, patients should drink clear, fat-free bouillon or broth, gelatin, strained fruit juice (no grape juice or any liquid with red color), water, plain and unsweetened coffee or tea, or diet soda. Unless otherwise instructed, continue taking any regularly prescribed medication. Your physician may also ask you to stop taking iron preparations a few weeks before the test if you are on them. Finally, you need to arrange for someone to drive you home afterward because lingering, subtle effects of the sedation will make it unsafe for you to drive until the next day.
Your doctor will also want to know if you have heart disease, lung disease, or any medical condition that may need special attention. Learn more about colon cancer prevention, including colon cancer symptoms, risk factors, and more.