What is colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an endoscopy used to examine the colon and small intestine to rule out abnormalities (inflammation or ulcers, among others). It usually lasts about 15-20 minutes.

What does colonoscopy consist of?

It is performed through a thin and fine tube (endoscope) that is introduced through the anus and has a camera at the end that records the organs and walls through which it passes.

Why is it performed?

There are different objectives for which a colonoscopy can be performed:

  • To locate any polyps or adenomas
  • To screen for colon cancer
  • To look for the causes of unexpected changes in bowel habits.
  • Evaluate symptoms of pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss.
  • In cases of iron deficiency anemia
  • Diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Colonoscopy is an endoscopy used to examine the colon and small intestine.

Preparation for colonoscopy

Before the test, the patient must follow instructions to cleanse the bowel and make it easier for the physician to observe the bowel. These guidelines will be based on a low-residue diet until the day before, at which time the patient will switch to liquids only. The diet will be accompanied by the intake of evacuating solution.

To perform the colonoscopy, the patient will be partially or totally sedated. The patient will be placed on his or her side and the physician will insert the colonoscope through the anus to examine the large intestine. This device consists of a flexible tube of approximately one centimeter in diameter and between 122 and 183 centimeters long.

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Currently, there is an alternative to the traditional colonoscopy that is much less invasive and does not require sedation. This is virtual colonoscopy, a type of examination that uses images of the inside of the bowel and colon obtained by a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan instead of the images from the colonoscope camera.

What does the exam feel like?

Colonoscopy is usually well tolerated by the patient and is rarely painful. At most, the patient will feel pressure, swelling or cramping during the test.

The serious complication rate for this type of procedure is 0.5%.

Significance of abnormal results

If the specialist feels that further evaluation is necessary, he or she will obtain a biopsy of the bowel lining for analysis. Polyps may be found during the test, which the specialist can remove on the spot.