Colonoscopy is a procedure which can be used to detect if there is any swollen or irritated tissue in the body, an ulcer, or if polyps are growing in the bowel. It is involved in the diagnosis of health conditions such as Crohn's disease, diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, and bowel cancer.
Why Might Someone Need a Colonoscopy?
A person might need a colonoscopy because they have bowel symptoms which the doctor wants to investigate or because of a precautionary bowel cancer screening program. It is a very effective procedure for identifying any issues or areas of concern. A specialist uses a tiny camera that can easily see if there is any irritated tissue or growth across the lining of your large bowel so that they can identify the problem and then remove it if needed.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy
The colonoscopy takes place in a hospital as a day case, which means that you can go home the very same day. You will receive some instructions from the hospital on how to prepare for the colonoscopy.
To let the doctor see everything clearly inside your bowel, it needs to be empty. During a preliminary consultation, your doctor is likely to provide you with strong laxatives which are to be taken a day or an evening before the colonoscopy. Before taking these laxatives, which usually come as a powder, do check the instructions so that you make no mistakes. The laxative will give you diarrhoea; it is a good idea to be at home, where you're most comfortable and with a toilet nearby. After taking the laxative, which in some cases can taste quite unpleasant, you might feel some bloating in your stomach. This is an absolutely normal reaction.
Before going for a colonoscopy, you need to be doing the following things too:
- You must be taking plenty of liquids so that you do not become dehydrated, sip regularly from a bottle of water.
- A couple of days before the procedure, shift to a low-fibre diet and eat the foods recommended to you by a doctor.
- Stop taking iron tablets a week before the procedure.
- You should also refrain from taking any medicines which can affect the way your blood clots.
You will need to inform the hospital about your complete medical condition and the medicines which you take beforehand so that they can prepare for the colonoscopy accordingly.
How Is a Colonoscopy Procedure Performed?
The procedure itself doesn't take long and usually takes between half an hour to an hour to perform. A painkiller or a sedative is sometimes offered so that the person might relax and stay comfortable during the entire procedure. The sedative is usually administered through an injection, and if it is strong enough, it can make you feel quite sleepy to help take your mind away from the procedure.
The doctor will ask you to lie on one side with your knees bent close to your chest. Firstly, they will insert their finger into your anus while wearing gloves to inspect the area and then they will gently pass the tiny camera through it. Although the doctor will be using lubricating jelly to make it easier, it may still feel quite uncomfortable for you.
Air is pumped through the pipe into the bowel to inflate it so that the doctor can have a clear view on the inside. If you pass wind, then don't worry because this typically happens. They keep rotating the tip of the camera so that it moves along the curves easily.
The images from the camera appear on a monitor so that the doctor can examine them. The doctor may then ask you to change your position if they need to get a different view from the inside.
Aftercare and Recovery
After the colonoscopy has taken place, your specialist will tell you if they have removed any polyps or have taken any biopsies or not. After the procedure is completed, it is better to take the remaining day off to rest and recover.
Within a few weeks of the procedure, your results will be sent to you. These will carry all the details, and your general physician will receive a copy too so they can discuss the results with you if you have any questions.
Side-effects and Complications
A colonoscopy is generally risk-free, but there are rare cases when it can cause damage to the bowel. One person in every 400 experiences bleeding after the colonoscopy procedure takes place.
In very extreme cases, the colonoscopy can cause a very small tear in your bowel, but this has a likelihood of just one in every 2500 people.
Colonoscopy is an essential procedure to discover any polyps or cancer in the bowel. It can be uncomfortable and leave you lacking energy, but generally, it is helpful in the diagnosis of a lot of dangerous diseases.