A colonoscopy is a type of diagnostic testing where a small camera is inserted into the anus to view the inside the large intestine. Colonoscopies are used to diagnose any number of conditions, such as functional problems or malignancies. Knowing what to expect will make the process less concerning.
Bowel prep is the process you will follow in the days leading up to your colonoscopy. The goal is to clean out your intestines of waste before the procedure so the doctor can visualize your intestine. There is some variability in the specific instructions and timing of each phase. A couple of days before the procedure, you will need to switch to a liquid diet. The liquids you consume must be clear and should not contain a red dye. You can have water, sports drinks, plain coffee and tea, and clear sodas or sparkling water. You can also consume flavored gelatin, sherbet, and ice pops.
Your doctor may give you special liquid to use as a laxative. Generally, the liquid laxative you are given must be consumed over a certain amount of hours. Some people find the liquid tastes better when it is cold. Keeping yourself hydrated throughout the process will prevent dehydration, but it can also make it easier to cleanse your intestines and minimize cramping or other discomforts.
Before the procedure, the medical staff will insert an IV, which will be used for you to receive an anesthetic and pain medications. Many people are awake during the procedure, but they may receive "twilight" anesthesia. You will be asked to remove your clothing and undergarments and wear a gown. Usually, people are instructed to lie on their side with their knees pulled toward their chest, otherwise known as the fetal position. Some people with physical limitations may be instructed to lie in a different position.
Once you are sufficiently anesthetized, the doctor will insert the colonoscope into your anus. The camera on the end of the colonoscope is attached to a monitor so the doctor can see as they advance the colonoscope throughout the large intestine. The doctor is prepared to do additional procedures during the test if anything suspicious is found, such as removing polyps or taking a tissue sample to send to pathology.
Some information about the current state of your intestines may be told to you shortly after the procedure. For example, if your doctor notices areas of ulceration, bleeding, or inflammation, these issues are usually more obvious. If your doctor saw suspicious areas and sent them to pathology, it may take a few days or weeks to find out the results. Once the pathology results come back, your doctor will discuss them with you. If the results determine the tissue is malignant, there will be additional testing needed to determine the stage of cancer and the specific form of colon cancer.
For other conditions, your doctor may recommend changes in your diet or medications to address issues like inflammatory bowel disease or ongoing problems with diarrhea or constipation.
Having a colonoscopy is recommended routinely starting around age 45 or at any time if symptoms warrant the test. A colonoscopy is the best tool available to identify and diagnose conditions of the large intestines. For more information about getting a colonoscopy procedure, contact a local clinic.
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