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Colonoscopy


Overview :

The procedure can be done either in the doctor's office or in a special procedure room of a local hospital. An intravenous (IV) line will be started in a vein in the arm. The patient is generally given a sedative and a pain-killer through the IV line.

During the colonoscopy, the patient will be asked to lie on his/her left side with his/her knees drawn up towards the abdomen. The doctor begins the procedure by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the anus to check for any abnormal masses or blockage. A thin, well-lubricated colonoscope then will be inserted into the anus and it will be gently advanced through the colon. The lining of the intestine will be examined through the scope. Occasionally air may be pumped through the colonoscope to help clear the path or open the colon. If there are excessive secretions, stool, or blood that obstruct the viewing, they will be suctioned out through the scope. The doctor may press on the abdomen or ask the patient to change his/her position in order to advance the scope through the colon.

The entire length of the large intestine can be examined in this manner. If suspicious growths are observed, tiny biopsy forceps or brushes can be inserted through the colon and tissue samples can be obtained. Small polyps also can be removed through the colonoscope. After the procedure, the colonoscope is slowly withdrawn and the instilled air is allowed to escape. The anal area is then cleansed with tissues.

The procedure may take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on how easy it is to advance the scope through the colon. Colonoscopy can be a long and uncomfortable procedure, and the bowel cleaning preparation may be tiring and can produce diarrhea and cramping. During the colonoscopy, the sedative and the pain medications will keep the patient very drowsy and relaxed. Most patients complain of minor discomfort and pressure from the colonoscope moving inside. However, the procedure is not painful.

A procedure called virtual colonoscopy has been developed but debate continues on whether or not it is effective as colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy refers to the use of imaging, usually with computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce images of the colon. Studies in late 2003 showed that virtual colonoscopy was as effective as colonoscopy for screening purposes and it offered the advantage of being less invasive and less risky. However, many physicians were unwilling to accept it as a replacement for colonoscopy, particularly since some patients might still require the regular colonoscopy as a follow-up to the virtual procedure if a polyp or abnormality is found that requires biopsy.




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