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A colonoscopy is a procedure for viewing the interior lining of the large intestine (colon) using a small camera called a colonoscope (which is a flexible fiber-optic tube).
How the test is performed
You lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward the abdomen. After administration of an intravenous sedative and analgesic , the instrument is inserted through the anus and gently advanced under direct vision to the terminal small bowel.
Air will be inserted through the scope to provide a better view. Suction may be used to remove secretions.
Since better views are obtained during withdrawal than during insertion, a more careful examination is done during withdrawal of the scope. Tissue samples may be taken with tiny biopsy forceps inserted through the scope. Polyps can be removed with electrocautery snares, and photographs can be taken.
Specialized procedures, such as laser therapy , can also be performed.
How to prepare for the test
Thorough cleansing of the bowel is mandatory. Instructions for doing so will be given by the health care provider. This will include using enemas, abstaining from all solid foods 2 or 3 days before the test, and taking laxatives.
To avoid dehydration , drink plenty of clear liquids (such as juices and broths). Unless otherwise instructed, continue taking any regularly-prescribed medication. Discontinue taking iron preparations a few weeks before the test, unless otherwise instructed by the health care provider (iron residues produce a dark black stool , which inhibits the view).
People with valvular heart disease may receive antibiotics before and after the test to prevent infection. Outpatients must plan to have someone take them home after the test, as they will be woozy and unable to drive.
How the test will feel
The sedative and pain medication will provide relaxation and produce a drowsy feeling. A rectal examination usually precedes the test to dilate the rectum and make sure there are no major obstructions. You may have the urge to defecate when the rectal exam is performed or as the colonoscope is inserted.
Discomfort may be lessened by taking slow, deep breaths. This will also help relax the abdominal muscles. Mild abdominal cramping and considerable passing of gas may occur after the exam. Medications will produce sedation, which should wear off in a few hours.
Why the test is performed
Normal ValuesNormal findings are simply healthy intestinal tissues.
What abnormal results mean
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
What the risks are
Special considerationsYou must sign an informed consent form. Several hours rest is recommended after the test. To replace fluids lost because of laxatives and fasting, drink plenty of liquids after the test.
Update Date: 5/1/2002Jenifer K. Lehrer, M.D., Department of Gastroenterology, Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT