What is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a diagnostic and potentially therapeutic procedure used to examine the colon with a camera-equipped flexible instrument, the colonoscope. The indications for this procedure are many, including evaluation of gastrointestinal bleeding, pain, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and very commonly, to evaluate for colon polyps or colon cancer. The procedure typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes. Polyps, which have the potential to become colon cancers, can be detected and removed during your exam, potentially eliminating the need for surgery and prolonging life.
We believe that colonoscopy is up to 90% effective in reducing deaths related to colon cancer (National Polyp Study, 1993). Colon cancer is currently the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S.
What preparation is required for a colonoscopy?
Please note that if your insurance information has changed since you were last seen at our practice, you must update your information in person at least 5 days prior to your procedure. This will prevent errors in billing and avoid charges that you might otherwise have to pay.
We require that your undergo one of a variety of bowel preps in Colorado Springs before the procedure to ensure that we can adequately visualize the inside of your colon. All of the following preps will give you diarrhea within ½ to 3 hours. We recommend that you stay at home and near a bathroom after starting the prep.
What to expect during a colonoscopy
What happens before your procedure?
At either the Endoscopy Center of Colorado Springs, or at Penrose if your insurance requires you to have your procedure there, you will be registered as a patient, will be given a consent form to read and to sign, and will have the opportunity to ask the nurse and doctor questions. An IV catheter will be placed in an arm or hand vein. You will be instructed to arrive 1 hour before your scheduled procedure time in order to properly prepare for the procedure.
Your physician will go over the procedure again with you, and if all questions have been answered, will give you medications to achieve a conscious sedation. Most patients tolerate the procedure very well with little memory of the actual procedure. Our goal is to ensure you have a comfortable experience, and we will provide as much sedation as we can safely administer titrated to your individual needs.
What happens during the procedure?
The instrument will be inserted through the rectum and guided to the beginning of the colon. Your physician may instill water or air into the colon to help with visualization.
Areas of abnormal tissue will be biopsied, and photos of the areas will be obtained and reviewed with you.
Polyps are commonly seen during colonoscopy and your physician employs a variety of techniques to biopsy and remove these lesions during your exam. If a polypectomy is performed, your physician will go over this with you afterwards and remind you not to take aspirin or NSAIDs for several days afterward.
What happens after your procedure?
After your procedure, you will be monitored and allowed to recover from the sedation. This typically takes 30 minutes to one hour. Your abdomen may be a little sore for a while, and you may feel bloating or cramping right after the procedure because of air introduced into your colon during the test.
With rare exceptions, most patients can resume a normal diet immediately afterwards.
You will go home with a copy of your procedure report, and your referring physician will receive a copy in the mail usually within one week. You will be sedated for this exam (unless you specifically ask not to be) and will need to have a driver home. A taxi cab is not sufficient. If you do not have a driver to take you home, your appointment will be cancelled/rescheduled. You will not be allowed to drive or operate machinery for 8 hours after the procedure and we recommend that you not attempt to go back to work that day.
Is colonoscopy a serious procedure?
A colonoscopy is an elective procedure that is routinely used to screen for colorectal cancer, which is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colonoscopies can also be used as a diagnostic tool for patients who are experiencing problematic symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a colonoscopy as a screening test every 10 years for patients between the ages of 45 and 75. While it is a common procedure for patients of that age, as with all procedures, there are possible complications that can be serious.
Even if you are at peak health, regular colon cancer screenings are essential preventive care.
How painful is a colonoscopy? Does getting a colonoscopy and the prep hurt?
You will be completely sedated and should experience no pain during your colonoscopy.
You may experience some discomfort as you prepare for the colonoscopy because the bowel preps that are necessary to clean out your colon cause diarrhea.
Following the procedure there may also be some discomfort and mild abdominal pain that should be relieved as air from the procedure leaves the colon. You may also experience some side effects from the sedation, such as drowsiness, which should improve as the medication wears off.
If you experience fever, persistent or significant pain or unexpected bleeding after a colonoscopy, you should alert your provider immediately.
What is the colonoscopy prep drink?
The prep drink you are instructed to take before your colonoscopy will be part of a bowel-cleansing regimen selected by your provider based on your medical history and the medications you take. If you have had previous colonoscopies, your prior experience may also help determine the prep drink you will use to safely and effectively clear out your colon in preparation for your colonoscopy.
While it might not be your beverage of choice, prep drinks are better tasting now than the laxative solutions of the past. In fact, many patients are able to successfully use laxative tablets in combination with a prep drink that contains MiraLAX® mixed with a neutral-colored Gatorade®, Propel®, Crystal Light® or other noncarbonated clear liquid drink.
You will receive instructions from your provider that will explain how and when to take your prep drink as part of your preparations for your colonoscopy.
How long does a colonoscopy take?
The colonoscopy procedure itself typically takes less than an hour, and in some cases may take only 15-30 minutes. The colonoscopy is only a portion of the experience, however, and prep time and recovery time should also be factored in.
The day before the procedure, you will spend a considerable amount of time prepping for your colonoscopy as you follow a special diet and clear out your bowels, typically with the assistance of laxatives. You will also need to arrive early for your procedure so that you can receive sedation.
Following your colonoscopy, you will need to allow yourself time to recover from the sedation and you will likely need to rest and recharge after the previous day’s fasting and preparation.
Considering that a colonoscopy can literally add years to your life, we hope you agree the time it requires is time well spent!
What does a colonoscopy diagnose?
A colonoscopy can be performed as a screening tool for colorectal cancer, which is cancer in the colon or rectum. It can also be performed as a diagnostic tool for problematic symptoms such as:
- Rectal bleeding
- Bowel changes, including chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
A colonoscopy is screening at its peak, so if you receive positive test results back from other screening tests that are used to help detect colorectal cancer — such as a stool test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, multi-targeted stool DNA test or computerized tomography (CT) colonography — a colonoscopy will be used as a follow-up diagnostic test.
During a colonoscopy, colon polyps can not only be viewed, but can also be removed to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Are you awake during a colonoscopy?
Great news: You don’t have to be awake during your colonoscopy. Your comfort and safety are our highest priorities, and we strive to deliver a peak experience for your colonoscopy. Sedation allows you to sleep through your colonoscopy and also increases the chances that you will remember little to none of the procedure.
The effects of sedation usually wear off within 30 minutes once your colonoscopy has been completed and your IV has been removed. A dedicated certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or anesthesia professional will monitor you closely throughout the procedure.
Is colon polyp removal painful?
Colon polyps are growths on the inside surface of the colon, or large intestine. Polyps can be benign, pre-malignant or cancerous and they can vary in size and shape.
In many cases, polyps can be removed during your colonoscopy, unless they are too large, in which case they may require surgery. In either case, sedation allows you to experience the removal, or polypectomy, without experiencing pain, although you may feel some pressure or pulling.
Depending on the size and number of polyps removed, your recovery may take up to 2 weeks, and some bleeding is normal. Your doctor can provide pain medication to make your recovery more comfortable.
As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The discomfort of having a polyp removed pales in comparison to the very difficult, and possibly fatal, experience patients undergo when cancer develops in a polyp.
What are the possible complications of a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is generally safe and complications are rare when the test is performed by a Board-certified gastroenterologist.
Irritation may occur at the vein where medications were given, sometimes leaving a tender lump lasting for several weeks. Applying hot moist towels may help relieve discomfort.
There is a small risk that biopsies or removal of polyps will cause bleeding which could require transfusions. You should take no aspirin, arthritis pills (other than acetaminophen/Tylenol), or other blood thinners for a period of time after biopsies or polypectomy. Your physician will inform you when you can resume these types of medications.
Rarely, a tear in the wall of the colon could require hospitalization, emergency surgery, or even death. Also, there is a small possibility of a splenic tear or rupture.
Other rare risks include a reaction to the sedatives used or aggravation of heart or lung diseases.
Please call immediately if after the procedure you develop fever, significant pain, or bleeding.
6031 E Woodmen Rd #100
Colorado Springs, CO, 80923
2940 N. Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – Audubon Medical Campus
2940 North Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Endoscopy Centers of Colorado Springs – St Francis Medical Campus