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FAQ's For Colonoscopy

 

What is a Colonoscopy?

A Colonoscopy is a test where the doctor looks into your colon. The colon is sometimes called the large intestine or large bowel. The colon is the part of the gut which comes after the small intestine. The last part of the colon leads into the rectum where faeces (stools or motions) are stored before being passed out from the anus.

A colonoscope is a thin, flexible, telescope. It is about as thick as a little finger. It is passed through the anus and into the colon. It can be pushed all the way round the colon as far as the caecum (where the small and large intestine meet). Another test called sigmoidoscopy looks at the rectum and the lower part of the colon. The tip of the colonoscope contains a light and a tiny video camera so the doctor can see inside your gut. Images and videos seen on the screen can be recorded on a computer using a special software, which helps the doctor prepare your report. 

The colonoscope also has a 'side channel' down which devices can pass. These can be manipulated by the doctor. For example, the doctor may take a small sample (biopsy) from the inside lining of the colon by using a thin biopsy forceps, which is passed down a side channel.

Who should get a Colonoscopy done?

A Colonoscopy may be advised if you have symptoms such as bleeding from the anus, pain in the lower abdomen, persistent diarrhoea, or other symptoms thought to be coming from the colon. The sorts of conditions which can be confirmed include:
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diverticula
  • Polyps of the colon
  • Cancer of the colon
  • ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography)
  • Endo Sonography (EVS)
Various other conditions may also be detected. Also, a Colonoscopy is often normal. However, a normal result may help to rule out certain possible causes of your symptoms.

What happens during a Colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It is a routine test which is commonly done. You will usually be given a sedative to help you to relax. This is usually given by an injection into a vein in the back of your hand. The sedative can make you drowsy but it does not 'put you to sleep'. It is not a general anaesthetic.

You lie on your side on the exmaination table. The doctor will gently push the end of the colonoscope into your anus and up into the colon. The doctor can look down the colonoscope and inspect the lining of the colon.

Air is passed down a channel in the colonoscope into the colon to make the inside lining easier to see. This may cause you to feel as if you want to go to the toilet (although there will be no faeces to pass). The air may also make you feel bloated, cause some mild 'wind pains', and may cause you to pass wind. This is normal and there is no need to be embarrassed, as the doctor will expect this to happen.

The doctor may take biopsies (small samples) of some parts of the inside lining of the colon - depending on why the test is done. This is painless. The biopsy samples are sent to the lab for testing, and to look at under the microscope. Also, it is possible to remove polyps. Polyps are small lumps of tissue which hang from the inside lining of the colon. Polyps if found, can be removed with an instrument attached to a colonoscope. At the end of the procedure the colonoscope is gently pulled out.

Colonoscopy usually takes about 15-25 minutes, depending upon the redundancy of the large intestine, completeness of the bowel preparation and your co-operation. However, you should allow at least one hour for the whole appointment to prepare, give time for the sedative to work, for the Colonoscopy itself, and to recover. A Colonoscopy does not usually hurt, but it can be a little uncomfortable.

What preparation do I need to do?

You should get instructions from the doctor or clinic staff before your test. Instructions given commonly include:

  • The colon needs to be empty so that the doctor can get a clear view.
  • You will be instructed on type of food and diet to be taken on the day before the test.
  • You will also be given instructions about the laxative solution to be consumed in order to prepare your bowels for the test. It is advisable to follow the instructions carefully.
  • It is important to remain well hydrated by drinking plenty of water or electrolyte solutions so that you don’t feel dehydrated due to the frequent passage of loose stools during the procedure.
  • You will need somebody to accompany you home, as you will be drowsy with the sedative.
  • If you have a history of heart attack, stroke or TIA, consult with your physician prior to having the gastroscopy, and let the doctor know of your previous medical history and the medications you are presently taking. The doctor will instruct you on which medications are allowed prior to the procedure, and which are not.
  • It is advisable to wear comfortable, non-tight clothing and no jewellery.

What can I expect after a Colonoscopy?

Most people are ready to go home after resting for half an hour or so. You may need to stay a bit longer for observation if you have had any polyps removed.

If you have had a sedative - you may take a bit longer to be ready to go home. The sedative will normally make you feel quite pleasant and relaxed. However, you should not drive, operate machinery or drink alcohol for 24 hours after having the sedative. You will need somebody to accompany you home and to stay with you for a few hours until the effects have fully worn off.

You can expect to pass one or two loose stools even after the procedure till the effect of the laxative wears off.

If you are working, it is advisable to take the morning/forenoon off since the preparation followed by the procedure and recovery is likely to be time consuming. However, if your appointment is fixed for the morning session, you should be able to get back to routine activities by late afternoon or evening. 

After the procedure, the doctor will write your report and hand it over to you along with images and video recording of the test. The result from any biopsy may take a few days which can delay the report being sent. 

The doctor may also tell you what they saw before you leave. However, if you have had a sedative you may not remember afterwards what they said. Therefore, you may wish to have a relative or close friend with you who may be able to remember what was said.

Are there any side-effects or complications from having a Colonoscopy?

Most colonoscopies are done without any problem. The sedative may cause you to feel tired or sleepy for several hours afterwards.
You may pass a small amount of blood from your anus if a biopsy was taken, or if a polyp was removed.
Occasionally, the colonoscope may cause damage to the colon. This may cause bleeding, infection and, rarely, perforation. If any of the following occur within 48 hours after a Colonoscopy, consult a doctor immediately:
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fever
  • Passing a lot of blood from your anus.
Rarely, some people have an allergic reaction to the sedative Serious complications are rare in most people who are otherwise reasonably healthy.


 
 
 
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