Healthy Living

Everything You Need to Know About a Colonoscopy

Everything You Need to Know About a Colonoscopy

Key Takeaways

  • A colonoscopy can also be used to look for colorectal cancer for individuals aged 50 and above
  • If you suffer from diabetes or use medicines that could interfere with blood clotting, you should inform your doctor
  • Your colon should be empty for the colonoscopy exam to be effective

Don’t be worried if the doctor suggests you undergo a colonoscopy. Although you might think of it as an awful procedure, it is not. Chances are you won't remember it, since you probably won't be awake. A colonoscopy is a test used by the doctor to examine the inside of the large intestines for potential sources of issues like rectal bleeding, pain in the abdomen or alterations in bowel patterns. It can also be used to look for colorectal cancer for individuals aged 50 and above. 

Before the Examination

Before starting the procedure, the doctor will ask you if you have any of the following medical conditions:

  • Medication allergies
  • Heart disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Lung disorders

If you suffer from diabetes or use medicines that could interfere with blood clotting, you should inform your doctor. These drugs may need adjustment before the exam starts. 

Preparation

Your colon should be empty for the colonoscopy exam to be effective. You should watch what you eat a minimum of 24 hours before the exam. Although foods that are solid are not allowed, the doctor may recommend liquids like:

  • Water
  • Sports drinks
  • Coffee
  • Broth

What follows will be emptying your bowel. This may be done in either of the following methods:

  • Taking magnesium citrate
  • Having a sequence of enemas

This may be done the morning or the night before the colonoscopy. Ensure you follow the doctor’s instructions carefully.

Make arrangements to have company when going home after the exam.  Normally there is sedation and you will not be conscious during the colonoscopy.  For a minimum of 8 hours after the procedure, you are not allowed to operate machinery or drive.

The Colonoscopy Process

The doctor will ask you to lie on an examination table on your left side.  A tube will be fitted to your arm to administer sedatives after which you will be unconscious.

During the colonoscopy, an instrument known as colonoscope that looks like a tube is inserted into the rectum. Although it is long, the width is only about half an inch. The tip has a video camera and light to enable the doctor to see the colon’s coating and look for any complications.

There is also a tube in the colonoscope that allows the doctor to pump in air and pump up the large intestines. This helps the colon be viewed better.

The colonoscope can also be used by the doctor during the procedure to take small colon samples for testing; this is known as a biopsy. Abnormal growths known as polyps can also be removed during this procedure.

After the Procedure

The colonoscopy exam lasts for a maximum of 30 minutes. For you fully recover from being asleep, you will be taken to the recovery room for approximately 30 minutes.

You may pass gas or have cramps in the immediate aftermath, although these are expected. Once you go home, you can eat normally.

Before going home, ensure you are aware of how to take care of yourself. Certain drugs like blood thinners may need to be avoided for some time if you had a biopsy or if any polyps were taken out.

Although it is rare, puncture of the large intestines or bleeding may occur during a colonoscopy. Immediately visit your doctor if you experience any of the below:

  • Chills, fever or severe pain in the abdomen
  • Persistent bleeding