A Complete Overview
A colonoscopy is a procedure that detects abnormalities in the lining of the colon. It allows the doctor to look inside the intestines with a camera type instrument. It is performed for persons whom the doctor suspects an intestinal pathology such as;
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Celiac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Colonoscopy is performed with a colonoscope, a flexible telescope with a camera at the end that allows looking into the colon. The doctor inserts the colonoscope through the anus where the cause of symptoms can be studied in depth.
The symptoms which usually lead to a colonoscopy are;
- Chronic diarrhea
- Change in bowel habits (constipation does not respond to high-fiber diet or laxatives)
- Rectal bleeding or blood loss in the stool (melena)
- Anemia, which is the decrease in the amount of red blood cells or decrease in the amount of hemoglobin that they contain. This affects the supply of oxygen to the cells. Anemia causes fatigue and pale mucous membranes.
In some cases, a colonoscopy is performed not only to diagnose a disease or condition, but also to analyze the state of the mucosa and the extent or severity of injuries. This is the case of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, bowel cancer or intestinal polyps.
Colonoscopy can be performed to confirm the results of other studies such as barium enema and fecal occult blood (FOB). During the colonoscopy, the doctor may take small tissue samples for analysis (biopsy) to detect malignancy. It is common to remove polyps (small formations in the colon mucosa) as they are often precursors to cancer over the years.
Alternatives To Colonoscopy
Although colonoscopy is a detailed study, it is not appropriate for all patients. In those who cannot be performed a colonoscopy, the doctor may order other studies;
- Barium enema: A liquid containing barium (a substance that can be seen through X-rays) is placed in your intestines through the anus and then, a radiograph is taken to see inside the bowel.
- Virtual colonoscopy: This is a study in which a scan is done of your abdomen. To accomplish this, the camera uses X-rays and allows seeing the inside of the colon and rectum through 3D images it generates.
- Sigmoidoscopy: A procedure similar to colonoscopy, but the instrument used is shorter. It allows the sigmoid colon and rectum to be viewed.
How To Prepare For A Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is performed at the hospital. On the same day, the patient returns home. This study requires advance preparation. The doctor will indicate the steps to be followed before the colonoscopy. The colon must be completely clean.
Steps prior to colonoscopy;
- Stop taking iron capsules. The iron contained in the supplements (ferrous sulfate) is converted into another chemical compound with the digestive juices and becomes black. This does not allow the doctor to see clearly inside the bowel.
- Follow a special diet before the study day
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of clear liquids (water, clear tea, vegetable broths)
- Take stimulant laxatives as prescribed
If you are taking other medication, you should consult a doctor before the colonoscopy. They will tell you if it is necessary to suspend it or not. Usually, the doctor indicates the interruption of those remedies which tend to cause constipation.
Furthermore, if you take drugs that affect blood clotting (clopidogrel, warfarin); you may need to suspend them for a few days until after the colonoscopy. Because of this, you should notify your physician.
If you have diabetes and receive insulin, you can consult with the department that gives the procedure, and they will tell you what you can eat before a colonoscopy and what steps to follow in relation to the application of insulin.
The doctor will give you all information regarding colonoscopy. This time is ideal for you to remove all doubts. You can ask your doctor about the risks and other alternative diagnosis. Then, you’ll be able to sign the informed consent and follow through with the procedure.
What Occurs During A Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy usually takes no more than 30 to 60 minutes to be completed. Before the procedure, the nurse will give you a pain reliever and a sedative intravenously. These drugs help you feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure. The nurse will place an oxygen mask. Your pulse, heart rate and breaths per minute will be monitored.
Colonoscopy is performed with the patient their side, and the doctor will insert the colonoscope into the anus along with a lubricant to facilitate the process.
During colonoscopy, air is injected allowing the doctor to move the colonoscope gently. It is normal to feel some discomfort. The doctor will move the colonoscope according to the area of the intestine that needs investigation. This is facilitated by the curves of the intestine and the flexibility of the colonoscope. At the end of the colonoscope is a lens that sends images to the monitor. The doctor will look at the pictures and ask you to change your position if it is necessary.
During colonoscopy, the doctor may take a tissue sample (biopsy) or remove polyps. This is done through a long forceps which is inserted through the scope and which allows for the removal of tissue. Samples are sent to the pathology laboratory for analysis to determine whether it is malignant or not.
Post Procedure Expectations
When the colonoscopy is completed, the colonoscope is easily removed and the air that was introduced is removed. You will need to rest until the anesthesia has passed. You cannot drive home, so transportation arrangements are necessary subsequent to the procedure.
Before you leave the hospital, the doctor can talk to you about the findings. If the doctor has removed polyps or taken a biopsy, the results will be sent to the hospital, and you will require a follow-up appointment. The physician will discuss this with you.
Several hours after the colonoscopy, you may feel pain. In this case, you can take analgesics (paracetamol, ibuprofen) or any medication for pain that the doctor has been indicated. The process of sedation disqualifies you from certain tasks and your ability to focus and coordinate movements are diminished for a period of time. You must avoid drinking alcohol, drive a car or operating machinery.
If after colonoscopy, you have any of these symptoms, consult your doctor:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal swelling
There are certain side effects that often occur after colonoscopy:
- Gas or bloating
- Little bleeding if a biopsy was performed or removal of polyps
Complications From Colonoscopy
Complications that can occur after colonoscopy are rare but still happen:
- Inability to see inside the bowel: This occurs if the colon does not completely empty or due to the inability to move the colonoscope into the loops of intestine. In this case, colonoscopy should be performed again or other tests must be performed.
- Reaction to anesthesia: This may alter the heart rate or the number of breaths. This is strictly controlled and, in this situation, you will be treated immediately.
- Intestinal wounds caused by colonoscope: Doctor performs the procedure safely, but in case of damage by the passage of the colonoscope, surgery is done.
- Bleeding due to the resection of polyps
Long Distance Telephone Appointments
If you are not local to the clinic, Michelle Honda PhD Holistic Doctor can conduct telephone appointments with you very easily. So if you are anywhere in North America, you can now successfully receive high end, specialized help for your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. If you are local to the clinic in Hamilton, Toronto or Mississauga Ontario – by all means come in for your appointment. If not, telephone appointments are very popular and convenient.